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Knowing When It's Time to Stop Chasing That Carrot

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Continual improvement. It's what many of us strive for in our quest to lose weight, be healthier and feel better. Finally able to run a mile without stopping? Why not go for two? Five? How about a half marathon? Heck, why not go for the full 26? What then? Got to goal? Why not try for another five pounds? Ten? How about testing the waters and seeing how low you can go? Finally got your body fat in a healthy zone? How about going for the "fitness" zone? Hmm, entering a figure competition sounds like an intriguing goal. Now how do I keep this up forever?

Please don't misunderstand where I'm going with this. While I think that just about all of these goals are admirable, I believe we sometimes need to accept that where we are, and continuing to maintain where we are, is good enough. And although it's wonderful to continually set new goals for ourselves to stay fresh and motivated, there sometimes comes a point when striving for those goals becomes counterproductive, even potentially damaging. So, how do we know when we've crossed that line?

I think it's when reaching those goals begins to consume our lives in a way that they become more important than other things that should take priority. Is training for that marathon causing you to miss your kid's school play--again? Does reaching your weight loss or body fat goal mean that you avoid nearly all social events, even with close friends and family? If your answer is "yes" to any of those questions, maybe it's time to reevaluate your goals and why they're important to you. After all, many of us set out to lose weight so we could feel better and more fully participate in our lives--not to avoid living them. Weight loss and successful maintenance take a lot of effort for many of us and that means making some sacrifices. But at what cost?

In my case, struggling to find that balance, and really understanding when I have, hasn't been an easy process. I've been able to get down to very low weights in the past and was "thrilled". Knowing you have the discipline to reach a difficult goal is a great feeling. But I was never able to maintain there because the way I needed to eat was not something I could keep up for life--at least not happily. I've also pushed myself to the limits in terms of fitness, for example, with my summertime boot camps. The results are phenomenal and they always make me think, "What could I look like if I kept this up year-round?" But two to three hours of exercise a day and following a pristine diet ALL the time are not realistic goals for me at this point in my life and would mean I'd have to make extreme personal sacrifices that I'm not prepared to make.

So where does that leave me? Realizing and finally understanding that what I've achieved and have managed to maintain is enough. Getting down to a healthy weight and managing to keep it off for nearly two years is a wonderful accomplishment. Making fitness a regular part of my routine is great not only for my weight management efforts, but also for my sense of wellbeing. Making good choices when it comes to food the vast majority of the time and developing the resilience to get myself back on track when I slip is helping to ensure that I won't end up obese or overweight ever again.

I may not ever be able to squeeze myself into a size 2 and I probably won't ever have a BMI of 20 or body fat that's less than 20%. And that's okay. I'm done chasing those kind of carrots. I've caught mine and am happy to munch away on it. I've earned it and, boy, does it taste good.
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