glow notes

Monday, April 18, 2005

Change, your friend.

Many people that talk to me about my weight loss/getting fit experience either a) attribute it to something special about me or b) attribute their failure to something wrong with themselves.

For example, a colleague recently told me I looked great, then said "but you're young, I'll check back in 5 years." That sounds kind of cutting, but she was just trying to make herself feel better for gaining 20 pounds over the last few years.

Another colleague asked how I ate for weight loss and I explained my program to her. She had about a million excuses why she couldn't do that. For instance: when I buy almonds, I eat the whole bag; I tried logging my food, but it got too complicated; I never have time to pack my lunch.

Other excuses I often hear: I hate exercise, I love food too much to diet, I have a chocolate problem, etc.

OK, jump back.

You don't have to want to lose weight or get in shape right now. There are a lot of good reasons to do so, but if you don't want to, don't. Just say it. Making excuses robs you of your power.

The most helpful thing that anybody ever said to me was a couple of weeks before my wedding. I was stressed out, binge eating, and gaining back some weight. This person said "Don't worry about it. You have a wedding to be present for. Lose the weight after if you want."

So, you may not want this health and fitness thing right now, but check back in once in awhile, why don't you?

However, if you do and think you just can't, I'll tell you this:

If I can lose 40 pounds and get in shape, anybody can reach their (reasonable) goal weight and get in shape.

I don't do hunger well. I have a history of compulsive overeating. I used to be a sedentary bookworm who didn't like to exercise. I love chocolate. I've had various sorts of chronic pain and bizarre injuries for all of my adult life. I crave sugar.

What does it take to change? Funny you should ask.

1. You do have to want to.
Really want to. That means all of you, even the deep dark corners of you. I spoke about this a bit in my last post. Resolving this could mean getting some professional help, or it could mean just noticing what's going on for you emotionally when you give up on your goals.

2. Get help if you need it.
If you are in pain (physical or emotional), find help. It costs money, yes, but your body is a precious tool and it won't last if you don't care for it.

3. Set reasonable goals.
I didn't change all of my habits at once. Lord, no.

A reasonable goal set for the first month for a person who is sedentary and overweight would be something like:

- Exercise 30 minutes 3 times per week for one month.
- Log your food intake and write down how you feel while and after you eat. Don't worry about calories or amounts, just write it down.

When your goal deadlines are over, decide what your next step is. If you have met your goals, pat yourself on the back (or even set up a series of non-food rewards). If you have not, stop and think about what went wrong. Go back through the steps if necessary: Do you really want it right now? Do you need some help? Were your goals reasonable? For God's sake, don't beat yourself up, just take an honest look at your behavior. Then set a new set of goals, with a timeline.

4. Tweak your program.
It's good to stick with a program for three weeks, because it takes that long for habits to shift. After that time, assess how it's going. Do you really like that exercise class? Would you rather be walking than be in a stuffy gym? How's the food thing going? Do you want to shift the number of meals you're eating per day, or maybe add in a free day? Are you having a hard time with packing lunch? How about a frozen meal (though it isn't ideal, it beats giving up)? Can you find simpler foods to eat that you enjoy?

You're in this for the long haul, so you'll want to switch things up every so often.

5. Stick with it.
I don't know if you've seen the Nike ad where Michael Jordan says "the reason that I succeed is that I've failed over and over and over and over again." Well, I don't know about Mike, but it's true for me. Each failure was a step towards success, as painful as those failures could be. The point is not to give up on yourself.

6. Have faith.
You may not believe you will ever meet your Goals-with-a-capital-G (the big goals underlying all the little achievable ones).

That's ok. Just keep at it, have faith that you will slowly change. Reach those attainable goals one at a time, which will give you a sense of empowerment.

Most of all, be nice to yourself. Treat yourself like a precious friend, or a little kid who may be confused and need guidance, but certainly isn't bad.

What's your goal this week?

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