I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, mainly because my history of sticking to them past the first week or two of January is pretty bleak. The times when I’ve actually been successful at changing my behavior (especially behavior related to eating and exercise) didn’t begin with a special date or a resolution for the new year. They began when I realized I was in trouble, and finally had to acknowledge that I really needed to start changing my behavior NOW—no more putting things off, even for a few days.
This year, I find myself in that kind of situation today, which also happens to be Jan. 1. So, I figure I might as well take a little time to write down exactly what it is that I think needs to change, and some ideas about how I’m going to make those changes happen.
In the past 21 months, I’ve regained a little over 40 of the 170 pounds I lost six years ago—definitely enough to make me physically and emotionally uncomfortable. How this happened is no mystery. In March of 2009, I had surgery to replace a bad aortic valve, followed in short order by another week in the hospital to cure a hospital-acquired infection, a problem with low blood pressure that caused frequent fainting episodes and led to a broken ankle, and the re-appearance of some old problems with recurring major depression. I went from being very active physically to being almost completely inactive for months at a stretch. And when I’m depressed, the major food group in my diet is chocolate; the other one is peanut butter.
The good news is that, at this point, I’ve stopped beating myself up for regaining this weight, and I’m finally in good enough shape medically to get myself back on track. But over the last several weeks, I’ve really been struggling with getting myself back into a healthy routine. I seem to be bouncing back and forth between trying to do too much at once (eg, a three hour hike in the local mountains almost every day) or not doing much at all, because I’m frustrated over how much my fitness has declined from where it was. Or over how the scale isn't cooperating with my expectations. And when that’s how I feel, it’s really hard to make it through the checkout line at the grocery store without grabbing a bag of M&M Peanuts (or two).
So, it looks to me like my first priority is to work on adjusting my attitude. I need to focus on where I am and what I can do today, without comparing that to where I was two years ago. And I need to remind myself that this is NOT all about big calorie deficits and fast changes in the number on the scale. It’s about reconstructing a way of life that’s healthy, rewarding, and helps me feel good about being in my own skin, whatever the scale says.
For me, "going on a diet" and letting the scale determine whether I'm succeeding just doesn't work. When the scale doesn't give me the number I'm looking for, my motivation disappears (for more about this, check out this article). But healthy eating and physical activity make me feel better about myself and my life, and that gives me the ability to pass up those candy bars on the way out of the store.
At this point, I think I need to re-discover what specific kinds of activities actually make me feel good and empower me to make good choices on a reasonably consistent basis. I know what worked before, and I know what “ought” to work, in theory. But that’s not necessarily what’s going to work for me today. To find out what will work, I need to do some experimenting and observe how different choices, activities and approaches actually affect my feelings and thoughts, and either boost my motivation and resolve to treat myself well, or diminish them.
So, my first resolution for this new year is to spend a little time every day in January keeping a journal where I’ll make notes about what I did (or didn’t do), what I ate, and how these choices made me feel. Once a week or so, I’ll go through these notes and see what conclusions I can draw about strategies and activities that will work best for me. I’ll let you know what I find out in future blogs.
How about you? What strategies are you using to keep your attitude in good shape even if the scale doesn't cooperate?
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