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Post by hexagon » Mon Sep 17, 2007 1:19 am

Hi there,

First, to any of you people out there who will immediately want to say "oh, you're making excuses for yourself"--here's my disclaimer--I'M NOT. I'm not saying that my failures are somehow the fault of external circumstances.

What I'd like to hear from you all is how you find the strength to maintain proper fitness and diet, even with all of life's vicissitudes. I get really, really angry because I feel sometimes that when I want to change myself, fate conspires to make it harder for me to do so. I understand it is ultimately my choice as to what to do, but sometimes I just *feel* so powerless.

About a month ago, I really wanted to get back into eating right and exercising. ("Exercising" for me entails vigorous exercise, because unlike most Americans I actually do walk a lot!)

Unfortunately, I had to travel abroad for work. Then I got a really awful, awful chest cold. Then, as I was recovering from the chest cold, I injured my back (pulled a muscle, causing muscle spasms). Finally, I thought my back had recovered, tried what I thought was careful exercise, and injured it again. This is bad because I've found that I need a lot of exercise, particularly vigorous exercise and weight-lifting, to lose weight. Simply walking doesn't normally cut it (I do that a lot anyway). Vigorous exercise also somehow seems to keep me from eating as much and reduces my stress level.

Now I have a number of deadlines and I'm panicking about them. I work at least 6 or 7 days a week, 12 hours/day most days. I have to work sometimes at inconvenient times and end up getting very little sleep. Despite my work, I think things are going badly. I am also worried about my job future, but I get home so exhausted I haven't been able to apply for jobs, which makes me even more anxious.

On top of this, I've been increasingly discontent with my long-term relationship and worried about ending up as an old maid. It seems like everybody else I know is getting engaged or married, finding the right person, while I am stuck in limbo. I feel I am not with the right person, but my partner is not a bad person and I feel extremely guilty for even contemplating an end to the relationship. I know that if I end it, I will hurt him a lot. On the other hand, I am not getting any younger and I fear that if I do not leave soon, I will be undesirable due to my age. I have tried talking to him about my problems with the relationship but he doesn't do anything to help me work on them.

I don't have any close friends where I live. The demands of my job have really hampered me from meeting people, and my friends are far away. I try calling them but they are not always available. I can't vent a lot of what I feel to anyone and it just builds up inside.

I am angry with my body. My arms have gotten all flabby and gross, and my jeans are definitely tighter. Despite all of this, if I end up at home, I'll just start eating compulsively (healthy stuff, but too much is too much). I feel like somebody else is taking possession of my body. I'm angry that all of these other things are going on in my life--somehow I feel that if I weren't so stressed out and tired I'd find the strength to say no.

Intellectually I know that I am not powerless. Somehow I could say no. I know that if I eat too much, I'll remain overweight. I know I am discontent with my body. Despite this knowledge, somehow time and time again I find myself at the refrigerator, stuffing my face when I'm not hungry at all. Every time I do this I feel really angry after the fact. I feel very hopeless sometimes, because I've done this for years and have not changed.

Any advice? Maybe some of you think I'm just horribly whiny. After all, it could always be worse (but hey, take most life situations and it can *always* be worse, right?).


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Post by florafloraflora » Mon Sep 17, 2007 4:01 am


I wouldn't call you whiny. Your life sounds pretty hellish, actually, and your work hours sound like a huge barrier to making a change.

One thing occurs to me, that may or may not apply to you. I don't know what your work is, and you don't have to tell us if you don't want. But there comes a point, in my work at least, where additional hours of work don't yield that much more. Even when I am on mad deadlines, sometimes I know that the best thing to do is go home, rest and recharge, because spending more time on the work will only wear me down and deepen my sleep deficit, without adding much or anything at all to what I've produced. Could that possibly work for you?

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Post by hexagon » Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:09 am

I think what you're saying is some good advice, and I agree with it. The problem is that sometimes it is very hard to do that, especially when things go wrong in my work (I'm a research scientist) that I cannot control. For example, if I grow bacteria and they for some unknown reason decide to grow too slowly, it throws off my whole schedule because I'm a slave to their needs. I have to cater the timing and length of my experiments to their whims, rather than what would be convenient or healthy for me.

Normally I would be able to blow off some steam by exercising vigorously, but now with my back injury I can't do so much and I feel so stressed out, not to mention gross and flabby. I feel like my muscles are shrinking into tiny bits of mush, but after having aggravated my back once already, I'm afraid of doing some real damage to it.

Oh well. Time to get ready for bed!

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Post by katie1980 » Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:12 am

I agree with florafloraflora on the work point. Do something about it now!

And as for the relationship, only you can make a decision on that. If your partner is unwilling to make changes to improve the relationship, then you have to make the call whether it is bad enough (or not good enough) that you want to leave. It sounds like you want to leave, though. It's never an easy decision, to do something like that though. You have my sympathies. I'd recommend that you do what's best for *you*, though. If you stay in a relationship that's dragging you down for fear of hurting the other person, ultimately you're not doing anyone any favours. They don't have to be a bad person for them not to be right for you.

And as for the illnesses and the excercise, I'd strongly suggest that you go and see a doctor. They ought to be able to give you an appropriate exercise plan - then you just have to make sure that you make the time to actually do what they tell you to! Working such long hours cannot be good for you, and so it would be far better to cut down your working to fit in exercise and the like, than to sleep less because you think you have to do the work. No job is worth having no life, and risking your health and your sanity into the bargain!

Overall, I think that the excess in work is causing a lot of difficulties for you. If possible, speak to your boss, cut back your hours, and generally get a better work-life balance, as it sounds like there is no balance at all right now.

I hope you are able to get at least some of this sorted.

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Post by katie1980 » Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:16 am

hexagon wrote:The problem is that sometimes it is very hard to do that, especially when things go wrong in my work (I'm a research scientist) that I cannot control. For example, if I grow bacteria and they for some unknown reason decide to grow too slowly, it throws off my whole schedule because I'm a slave to their needs. I have to cater the timing and length of my experiments to their whims, rather than what would be convenient or healthy for me.
Are there other scientists in your lab? And do they have similar problems to you in terms of dead times and manic times? If so, maybe you could make a pact to help each other out where you can. e.g. if your 'bugs' go nuts and their 'bugs' are sleeping, they help you get through the work while you're snowed under, then you help them out when their 'bugs' wake up again. This may not be possible, but it's just a thought :)

All the best with it! {{hugs}}

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Post by rose » Tue Sep 18, 2007 9:34 pm

Hi hexagon,

I suggest some relaxing activity with breathing emphasis.
Examples: relaxation class, belly breathing, chikung, swimming (but not strenuously) with underwater exhalation, singing...
I find it helps in stressful times. The belly breathing you can do anywhere, anytime (almost). Chikung is breathing exercises with slow movements, and it can be considered as "light exercise" also. Singing in a choir adds the pleasure of beging in the heart of the music to the relaxing effects of long exhalations. (but not so relaxing when the choir chief is exasperated with the choir).

Regarding strenuous exercise: I used to think that exercise was not productive unless it was strenuous. After several injuries I've learnt to take care of my body, and I have learnt a few things about my mind (impatient) and about my body (not quite as strong and resilient as I'd like). I suggest you use this time of injury to explore other ways to exercise.
Build "light exercise" habits and routines. (for instance, if you use weights usually, do the same routine very slowly without weights...) This way even when you are injured the next time you will not despair, but you will keep on exercising lightly. (I hope there is no next time of course, but when you like "strenuous exercise" there will probably be a "next time").

Of course results (weight loss) are not as quick with light exercise as with strenuous exercise. However, even if you don't feel tired, even if you don't feel like you have "really" exercised, your muscle won't melt down as quickly as if you hadn't exercised at all, _and_ the mental side effects are empowering. (I mean both the chemical effects of exercise, and the feeling of being "in control" despite injury).

I wish I could give some useful advice regarding your relationship... maybe you can consider the following questions: what are your objectives in terms of relationship ? Do you want marriage ? kids ? committment to grow old together ? to support each other ?
If you decide you want and need such and such a thing, tell your partner. Get him to tell you his own objectives. If you can agree to give each other what each of you needs, and commit to doing that, good. Else your relationship is failing. It will hurt probably to be honest with each other. If you express your needs frankly and politely, but find that your partner is evasive and does not address the issue, then your partner is actually failing your needs already...

(well all easier said than done. Try the relaxation and belly breathing at least, it can't hurt.)

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Post by reinhard » Wed Sep 19, 2007 2:08 pm

I would say that the relationship issue is the most important. Invest some serious consideration/work/discussion in it now, or the pain is only going to get worse later. See a counselor together. Lay your issues on the table. Show him that you're willing to give this a lot of effort. Even great relationships take work, and if it's not so great, well, then this this work should make that clear. If you do wind up splitting up, then at least you'll both feel you made an honest effort.

As for your job, get a resume out there. It doesn't have to be perfect, just throw something out there. There's nothing like having crap out there to motivate you to make it better. Just start. My ex boss (he's since moved on to more glorious pursuits) used to say that you should always be interviewing, no matter how happy you are in your current position (disclaimer, I don't actually follow this advice personally). His idea was that it's better to put up with the annoyance of interviewing than feel trapped or undervalued. If you don't feel like your current job leaves you time for this -- well, this is more important than your current job. It's you, your future. And it doesn't really take that much time, especially not that first critical step. Talk to a recruiter. They're happy to do most of the annoying work for you.

To mitigate stress levels, can you put some kind of boundaries around your hours? Can you just say to yourself, it it's been more than x hours, screw it and go home? My guess is that medium to long term, you'll be more productive that way than scrambling like a nut to make some short term goal. If the nature of your work is just inherently slave-like, find some other work. That's horrible. You aren't a slave. You can do something else. It doesn't matter if it's not what you trained for, imagined doing, etc. It can't be as bad as what you describe (assuming tweaks like capping the hours don't work). Just seriously considering this option might be a stress reliever, even if you don't act on it. Because you realize that you have options, that you aren't trapped.

Basically, I would strive to put that emphasis on a "minimum level of compliance" vs. heroic exertions not just for diet and exercise, but also for work. If you can't, change your work. Having some kind of sane, predictable routine is that important.

Last edited by reinhard on Thu Sep 20, 2007 1:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Sinnie » Wed Sep 19, 2007 11:25 pm

Was going to add some advice, but Reinhard put it in far better words than I ever could. In fact, I needed to hear that advice myself. Very inspiring to me. Reinhard, you sure do have a way with words. Thanks!

I hope you're doing better Hexagon. My heart goes out to you because I completely understand your frustration and you are not whiny *at all*. Tell us as much as you want, whenever you want, because believe it or not, sometimes it helps other people sort there own stuff out just as much as you. These issues usually warrant us all to look at sometimes.

Let us know how things transpire...


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Post by navin » Thu Sep 20, 2007 5:29 pm

About all I have to add might be the old "serenity prayer":

"Grant me courage to change the things I can, serenity to accept the things I can't, and wisdom to know the difference".

Sounds like there are a lot of things in your life that you have to determine whether you can (reasonablly) change or not, and to actually change them if you can. This could be the little things (such as "should I eat that doughnut even though it's Monday?) to the big ones like your job, relationship, etc.

And a side note, just being older doesn't make you suddenly undesirable for relationships. There are plenty of guys who like older women.
Before criticizing someone, you should try walking a mile in their shoes. Then you'll be a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

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Post by lostone » Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:55 pm

I have to say I can completely identify with your frustration about work. I'm a research scientist too and have had many a frustrating day based on my bacteria doing whatever they felt like.
Maybe you can fit in time to excercise in the middle of your day? Lots of times I'll start an experiment in the morning and then go to a noon excericise class or walk or run while my bugs grow or reactions incubate.
Have you spoken to a doctor about your back injury? I hesitate to offer advice but maybe you could speak with a doctor about vigorous but low impact excercise like swimming or aqua jogging or something until your back is healed. If you are a researcher in a college lab there's a good chance you have pretty good workout facilities on campus. (but maybe you're in industry.)
I don't think you are whiny, I think you have a lot on your plate. I'm curious to know more about why you work so much...research is a job like any other and you are still entitled to have the rest of your life. Although I come into my lab occasionally on weekends it's not every weekend because I just refuse to live like that. Like several pp mentioned, consider your priorities about where you are working.

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some advice on the exercise issue

Post by bonnieUK » Tue Sep 25, 2007 11:59 am

Hi Hexagon,

I doubt I can offer much or anything more than the helpful comments here already, but in terms of exercise I think it is best to start with something very simple as you've got so much already going on in your life, and its more important to not beat yourself up if you don't get the chance to do any.

A problem I've had with exercise is setting unrealistic goals and having unrealistic expectations of myself. I had dance training when I was younger, so exercise featured in my daily activities without me having to make any real effort (other than turn up to college with a reasonable amount of energy) but since "growing up" and getting a "proper job" (i.e. deskbound LOL) I suddenly found that I had to make an effort to get to classes, gym, do yoga or whatever after a busy work day, and just didn't have the energy too. I unrealistically expected myself to get to classes every single day, and then got angry with myself for not meeting my expectations. I've since broken this cycle by accepting that I can't expect to re-capture the same level of exercise I did as a carefree student.

I think it would help you to accept that your life is so busy and full at the moment that you can only fit in whatever exercise is humanly possible on such a tight schedule, e.g. a quick walk here and there, going up and down stairs at a brisk pace, getting up an pacing about in spare moments. Also, I'm no relationship expert at all, but how about doing something simple with your partner like regular walks together? It might give you a chance to talk and work on your relationship and as a bonus help you get some useful exercise.

Hope everything works out for you :)

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Post by kccc » Tue Sep 25, 2007 4:35 pm

Hex, I don't have anything to add to the good advice you've already gotten - just wanted to say I'm glad to see you around, and hope things get better for you.

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