Monday, June 17, 2013

Some: Learning The Art of Moderation

I have a really hard time with moderation. I get addicted to awesome things really easily. Sue me. It's been an issue my entire life. I lived and breathed Star Wars and musical theater growing up. I was so obsessed with that stuff that I probably wouldn't have had time to be obsessed with video games too. I was too busy creating "dream" ballets to John William's score followed by nightly sing alongs to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Eventually, I did manage to get addicted to video games. MMO's were my biggest weakness- the sense of achievement, the teamwork, the far flung adventures in awe inspiring landscapes filled with rich lore- it was an absolute siren song sung in pixels. They made it easy to escape into an imaginary world where my daring heroics and skill in combat melted my real problems into nothing.

Well, that was the case as long as I stayed logged in. Once I logged out, I had to face a very different reality- one in which I was extremely sedentary and uncomfortably overweight with an appallingly low self image.

One of the biggest factors in my quest for better health was that when I first started my diet/work out regimen, I completely eliminated video games because I know that once I start, I don't stop and I didn't want to let their "derailing" quality keep me from making good on my promise to myself to adopt new habits.

About three or four months into my journey, Guild Wars 2 came out and all my friends were rabidly devouring its content. I decided that given my good behavior, I would buy it and give it a try. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but playing this game was the first time that something felt off. I just couldn't get into the same flow I used to hit. The achievements and leveling were nice, but not as satisfying as they once were. After a few months, I completely lost interest.

Then along came my beautiful new desktop computer and my gal bladder surgery. Finally, I had an excuse to sit down and sink my teeth into Skyrim. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful game with a huge amount of scope, but I found I could only play for a few hours before I just had to step away. I never used to get that feeling. I used to have to tear myself away from the screen.

The more active and healthy I got, the less I could stomach just sitting still in front of the computer for hours on end. In a way, I shouldn't complain because it's probably a good thing that I don't feel able to "binge-game" anymore. However, this issue has escalated to a new level.

I think I'm developing an odd aversion to playing video games at all.
Photo credit:
It hit me around the time I went to PAX East this past year. I realized that I barely knew about or had any interest in any of the games on the show floor. I used to be in the know about all the new releases and always had my eye on the next game I wanted to try. This year, there were only one or two games I even remotely cared about.

On that same trip, my friend Kenny mentioned that he was really happy for me when it came to my success with weight loss but that he missed gaming with me. It made me really think about the last time I'd played a video game. Part of me felt like my very geekitude was being brought into question and I was sort of offended, but there was truth in what he'd said. I'd played Castle Crashers with my boyfriend and I'd watched him play through Spec Ops and a few other things, but I hadn't been in control of an immersive gaming experience in almost six months at that point. I hadn't even played through some of the downloadable content for some of my favorite titles.

No problem, I thought to myself. I'll pick up Skyrim again when I get home.

Only I didn't.  

Believe me, I tried. I've literally sat down at my computer ready for a gaming bender with my mouse poised over the program launcher, but I'll find any reason not to select it. 

I have to work on cosplay.
I have to do my cooking for the week.
I have to clean my room.
I have to write my blog.
I have to check my social media sites.
I have to make notes on my web series.
I have to feed my cat (I don't have a cat, but damn it, I'll make that excuse anyways). 

While I was making these excuses, my Blizzard account got hacked and stollen and I still haven't gotten it back. I don't want to lose it. I feel protective of my countless World of Warcraft toons, 60,000 gold,  and my Diablo III Monk, but something is keeping me from going after the crooks who took it. I might think panda monks are lame, but I still want the opportunity to play one if I want! 

Recently, I adopted a Primal diet- something I'd resisted forever and a day because I just didn't understand how not calorie counting and using your "best judgement" to limit your intake of grains, dairy, and legumes (which are completely prohibited by the Paleo diet) could ever work. I googled it a billion times to see exactly how much of those items were allowed. Everything just said "some." I asked people who followed a Primal lifestyle, "How much is some?"

"However much you feel is appropriate for you," They'd respond. 

"WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN! HOW IS THAT HELPFUL?" I collapsed in on myself like a dying star. 

I was looking for structure and exactitude, which had been a huge part of following the Nutrisystem guidelines, but which also was driving me slowly insane. 

Imagine counting every calorie you put in your body religiously for a whole year. Imagine fretting about whether or not you've burned enough for the day and worrying about when you're going to fit in the early morning workout or whether you should go out with your friends because they're going for ice cream after the activity. It's grueling and sometimes lonely. It's totally necessary to go through the process when you're teaching yourself a new way to live, but it can go too far. 

In practice, while I fully intended on living Primal, I've actually ended up living Paleo partially because I can't take the pressure of "some," but also because I'm finding that I do have a bit of a gluten allergy (CURSE YOU AND YOUR SUDDEN BUT INEVITABLE BETRAYAL, BAKED GOODS) and maybe a little lactose intolerance too (/cry Icecream).  I am getting used to this whole "controlling your own sense of moderation thing" in terms of realizing when I'm full so that I stop eating. I've been limiting nuts, sweet potatoes, and fruit since I am still working on weight loss, so those are the only items I measure or weigh when I consume them. I will say that being full all the time has drastically improved my moods and not having to log everything I put in my mouth every day has really taken some of the pressure off. To me, it's worth eschewing those three food groups because I got my sanity back.

Yet, there are free days every so often where I go a little wild. I eat some ice cream or pizza. I have a piece of candy and BANG. The rest of that 24 hour period is cats and dogs, living together, mass hysteria... in my mouth.

That's what she said.

What I'm trying to say is that because I've spent the last year taking control of every aspect of my life that was in excess, I'm now finding it hard to enjoy "some" of the things that I still want to keep in my life without letting them take over my life. 

With all this swimming around in my head, it dawned on me the other day that the reason I haven't been able to sit down and become immersed in a video game is that I'm terrified that I'll actually do it or even worse, I'll do it forever and lose all the progress I've made! I wish this was one of those blog entries with a wonderful solution all locked up in a pretty blue Tardis, but it's not. I'm still figuring this out. If it were as easy as, "I don't really want to game anymore" or "I could die happy if I never ate chocolate again," the problem would be solved, but life isn't that easy. Sadly we don't just get ourselves addicted to stuff that's not only awesome, but awesome for us. We all have to contend with "some" things that are only good for us in moderation. 

I'm haven't been completely unsuccessful at moderating my behavior. My free days are planned. I set them ahead of time and when they're over, they don't hang around (and despite being truly overindulgent 24 hour affairs. My only rule for now is that I stop eating if I feel sick or the food stops tasting like anything). I've adopted a Paleo diet so that I can stay sanely moderated most of the time without having to do so much math. I've found an exercise routine that I like (so I don't give up on it) and that I can vary in case of bad weather or a weirdly scheduled day. I make sure I have one or two days of rest a week so that I don't put too much pressure on myself or my body. I downloaded Star Trek Online because it was free and I was hoping that my new love of Star Trek would help me get into it. I started playing the new Tomb Raider with my room mate (we trade the controller after each failed quicktime event). I've only managed about 3 hours of game time in the last week, but at least it's something. This is all progress, but I'm still not where I'd ultimately like to be. I want to enjoy things that I love without fearing them or stressing out over them.

So, I'm putting this question out there to all of you! How do you moderate your food, gaming, hobby, passions while remaining on track? Obviously willpower is the biggest factor, but I know you guys are smart! I KNOW YOU HAVE SECRETS. Please don't tell me the Princess is in another castle. I know if we put our heads together we can think of some great ways to moderate our behavior without having a personality where fun goes to die. 

So while you do my work for me and start answering that question, I'm going to go sit in front of my awesome customized gaming computer and try to get myself to launch Skyrim because it's my day off, I'm sick, it's raining, and I deserve a little R & R after the long week I've had. I'll let you know how far I get.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not really sure how I'm keeping things in line or if I really am. But I did want to share that the last month or so I've found I have no desire to play WoW, where I could always pound out six more more hours if given the chance. I hadn't thought of why, just figured it was because I was busy. But then I realized while reading this...I am busy but I've had a ton of downtime, too, which normally would be optimal WoW moments. It is quite a possibility the reason I'm not playing is similar to yours. Not exactly, but I am working on getting back into my regular fitness routine I had a down pat a couple years ago. Interesting to think about.

    Glad I stumbled on your blog via Nerd Fitness. Still haven't dived into Paleo but trying recipes here and there to get started.