You’ve been on a diet before, right? And maybe it worked? Or maybe it didn’t? Or maybe it did, and then it didn’t? Or perhaps – like me – you’ve had so many false starts that starting again elicits sniggers of “Funny one!” from your co-workers.
I had been half-heartedly trying to lose 10 pounds for about all of 2008. I’d set the goal, post it, talk about it, and then apparently celebrate by eating something sweet and fattening. And then having seconds. And remarkably enough, that didn’t really work out for me. Go figure. The whole process never really got started on the right foot, and certainly never really stuck around at all. If anything, I was gaining weight during this time, not even just maintaining. Frustrating, but understandable – hard to lose weight when you eat everything in sight!
When I started this up again (always with renewed vigor for it!), deep down I didn’t really think it was going to be any different. But this time, amazingly enough, it IS different. Not only am I making progress, but it feels different, if that makes any sense. I’m more motivated, depending less on will-power, and just know, somehow, that I’m going to meet (and exceed!) my goals.
So, what’s changed this time around?
Timing is everything, right? That’s the saying, right? In this case, I think it’s probably pretty on the mark. First, it’s the off-season. And not only the off-season, but an off-season where I’m not going to be seriously racing in the summer so I don’t have to worry about getting the swim/bike/run volume in that I’m used to. Which means I’m able to focus on strength training and other things that are keeping me interested and motivated. Ironically, being allowed less structured training has given me the opportunity to become MORE structured… just in a structure of my own whims and choosing.
For whatever reason, ever since last fall, my attitude/mood/outlook, whatever you want to call it, has been really good. I’m better able to let go of things that are outside my control and conversely actively influence the situations where I do exert some control. And this serves to help me really concentrate on the positive and focus on what I want to become. So many times, diets and weight loss attempts are negatively-based — you beat yourself up for not meeting goals or for being that undisciplined person who never eats healthy. Instead I’m working to make it a positive thing … see how GOOD I feel when I eat healthy and exercise?
- The right information
This has been a significant piece of the puzzle for me. In the past month, I’ve been exposed to a lot of written and audio material that has changed the way I look at nutrition, building muscle, goal-setting and self-image. More than that, it’s providing a framework – a process, really – for me to go about enacting this change that I desire. Probably the most critical piece of information? The one that’s so apparent it’s like, well, DUH… that getting healthy is almost entirely a mental task. It’s all about visualization, positive affirmations, changing the way you think about yourself and react to situations so that healthy choices become automatic instead of a matter of willpower. Sure, you have to put in the time and the sweat, but understanding the power of the mind in the process reveals the essence of how to succeed.
- Making peace with my commute
This one probably sounds a little strange, but it was a big step for me. In the past, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy railing against my long commute — the long commute that I took on willingly by moving almost 3 years ago. Blamed everything from lack of time to lack of sleep to my weight gain on it. But, knowing that I’m not going to move and the commute isn’t changing, I’ve decided to knowingly change my attitude about it. Commute time now is productive in one way or another. Either I’ve got an educational/motivational CD in, or I’m listening to music to pump me up for my workout or I’m actively visualizing my goals and mentally going over my game plan for the day.
- Strength Training
And not only hitting the weights (which I haven’t done consistently in years now), but hiring a personal trainer. When I do strength training on my own, I get bored, de-motivated and don’t push myself all that hard. I love – absolutely LOVE – when I’ve got someone forcing me to push beyond what I think is possible. And I’m now really starting to see the fruits of this labor – whodda thunk I actually had MUSCLES hiding in those arms of mine?? There’s no better feeling than waking up in the morning, barely able to push myself out of bed because body parts are refusing to work, with a very attitude-y “ain’t no WAY, girlfriend…”.
- Food logging
All of this wouldn’t be possible without me being a little anal about logging every bit of food that goes into my mouth. I’ve always been a victim of “a bite here, a smidge there” until it adds up to some serious calories. Now, I will usually – though, still not always! – THINK about what I’m going to eat and how it affects my daily nutritional bottom line instead of just mindlessly shoving it in my mouth. So much eating occurred without me even being hungry – just a thoughtless habit that wasn’t serving any purpose except to give me the satisfaction of feeling over-full. Food logging also helped me to identify some links between what’s going on in my life and over-eating or unhealthy eating. Turns out when I have a headache, I overeat. Good to know!
- Written goals
Huge. HUGE. I mentioned this in another point, but it deserved it’s own. Not only thinking about where I wanted to be in the abstract, but spending time writing it out — both the long-term-pie-in-the-sky goal and the short term goals that would get me there. I’ve become such a big fan of goal-making that I’ve put together my Master Goal List — I’ve got ground work laid for where I want to be in all aspects of my life. Just writing it out and commiting to it is such a powerful motivational tool. And specifically with my getting lean project, I’ve done things like take some “before” photos and then taken the time to write out how those pictures make me feel, and then create a list of how I’m going to feel when I DO reach my goals. Along with that, I’ll take pictures and measurements once a month to gauge my progress. Sounds a little hokey, but I’m finding it rather empowering.
So, there’s my Big Seven list of why things seem to be working out for me this time around. It’s not an inclusive list, nor is it applicable to everyone, but I think it’s been good for me to identify what’s working so far and what’s just getting in the way of me reaching my goals. Even though things seem to be falling into place, I still struggle with the ups and downs and have to deal with not only life, but hormones and other fun things like that getting in the way. Having this list grounds me and gives me something to fall back on when it seems more difficult than usual.
In the end, what I want is for making healthy choices to be my automatic response. When the waitress asks, “Do you want fries with that?”, I want to respond “nah, don’t need ’em” without even thinking about it. No negotiating, no feeling like I’m being deprived. I want it to come to a point where I don’t even want it anymore and it holds no power over me. Because, if you think about it, it’s silly to give food that kind of power, isn’t it?