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Who's in control of the steering wheel?

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

So, another type of ad that seems common on one of the channels played on the gym TV is investments. Gold and retirement planning are the two common ones I can think of. One of the retirement planning ones actually made me think of this whole process of change and altering our lifestyle.

In the ad, it starts with one pair of hands on a steering wheel, steady and even. Retirement planning. Suddenly from the side another pair of hands grabs for the wheel. Taxes. Then another pair from the other side. College expenses. Then another pair from elsewhere. Medical costs. More and more hands keep making grabs for the wheel, and it spins this way and that as one side or the other gains more hands / pull in that direction.

The car careens all over the place, making much less progress, even spinning around and going the wrong way at times.

Applying that to our journey to health and fitness, we get on this road, hands on the wheel, and we start to make decisions. We're going to do this, we're going to do that, we've got that car pointed right straight in the direction of all our excess weight lost and life perfect.

And then another pair of hands yanks us off-track. Maybe it's the cookies still in the cupboard or the fast food joint so conveniently close to work. Maybe it's the rumbling stomach or the gasping, wheezing, breaths and aching muscles from our first few efforts at being active.

We fight our way back on course, tugged this way and that.

Then another pair of hands joins in the fray. Maybe this is a family member or a friend who is so helpful about bringing us a favorite treat or telling us we're beautiful as we are. Maybe it's the scale telling us that in spite of all our hard work, we're up this week. Maybe it's some random stranger being cruel because of the weight.

Zig, zag, on and off the road, a battle for control of our direction.

Even more hands jump in. Maybe it's emotional eating or binging or wild cravings we can't seem to control. Maybe it's unexpected life stresses - deaths, divorces, fracturing friendships, loneliness, job loss, financial strain.

Is it any wonder that so many have a hard time and "fall off the wagon"?

Of course, at this point is that the ad's solution to all that is not for the individual to be able to take and maintain control of that steering wheel. However, that's not really an option for those changing their own life ... unless they've got the time and money or connections to be shepherded Biggest Loser-style through every step of the process.


Some things that do come to mind:

1) When steering a car, we learn how to make SMALL corrections. I actually remember Driver's Ed classes and these computerized training sessions in which we "drove" based on a film playing. The natural kid instinct for driving is turning the wheel hugely to correct. The right way is small adjustments. By the time we've been driving a while, we don't even think about those tiny constant corrections.

Our path to a new lifestyle is more easily done in a similar manner. Let's say we plateau for a month. What's the natural instinct? Jump on a severe diet restriction - cut out this food group or that, double our workouts? Sounding at all familiar?

2) When steering a car, we deliberately slow down when we enter a hazardous zone. (Unless we're the Dukes of Hazard and try speeding up instead.) We see brake lights ahead, we drop our speed and examine the road. We don't just keep going full speed ahead, then swerve and hope we avoid every danger. We change lanes, we slow to a crawl, even stop as needed, and eventually we get past and return to our normal speed.

Again, good concept when we see danger points looming. We can slow down. We can examine the upcoming obstruction. We can shift our plan to adjust. (An injury or illness, for example, instead of the end of the world is just a delay of a few days or a need to switch the plan up to continue.)

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I'm sure there's probably more, but I haven't cooked my dinner yet. Must do that to have some digesting time before getting to sleep.
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