Thursday, September 13, 2007

Staying motivated

Recently, someone complimented me on my weight loss, and asked how I "got motivated."

Getting motivated is easy. You spend enough time trying on clothes that don't fit right, looking at pictures of yourself, and getting out of breath on easy physical tasks, and you'll get motivated.

It's staying motivated that's the hard part. This journey can be a minefield.

Here's an example. I am a social eater and drinker. I can "behave" diet-wise 7 days a week for weeks at a time, but as soon as I go out to dinner with someone, have friends over, go to a party, go to a BBQ, I have to fight this strong urge to just let loose and do "whatever." This is actually quite sustainable, as long as your special occasions stay far enough apart. But there are three big things that can make this particular behavior tough on my mental state.

First, when I had a lot more weight to lose, my Caloric needs were higher. So it is obviously easier to lose weight. When I ate "right," I was dropping 2 pounds a week. When I splurged, I was still dropping a pound. Progress was steady. Now, 45 pounds lighter, my Caloric needs are lower. My margin of error is lessened. I can easily undo 5 days of good work with 2 days of splurging, and I can perceive an undoing of 6 good days with one bad day, even if that perception isn't reality.

Second, life isn't a smooth graph. Things come in batches. In a given week there might be four "special occasions." And suddenly there are more "bad days" than good, and not only that, the bad eating on those four days threatens to become a new habit. A vacation can not just cause a loss of fitness, but can create new habits that undermine or undo progress for months to come.

Third, I no longer feel like my physical state is in "crisis" mode. I look "normal" as compared to my peers. So I feel like I should eat "normal" as compared to those same people. So if they are eating/drinking a certain amount, I automatically want to follow along. I don't feel like, "Well, I have to be more careful than they are, look how much fatter I am."

So how do I address these?

First off, there's a mental state I need to constantly stay in. This is my life. This isn't some "thing" I'm doing, this is my life. If I'm behaving in a specific way with the goal of it being sustainable only in the short term, I'm doing it wrong. So I need to mentally check on that periodically. Am I doing this right? Am I living this as a lifestyle, or as a diet? If the behavior seems short-term-focused, I need to address it. If my motivation is "to fit into these clothes," it's a motivation that will fail soon, and won't necessarily carry me any further.

Second, I keep exercising. My fitness increases with effort, even if I have an "off week" as far as diet goes. So I may get frustrated at my weight, but I find that I can run for 5 minutes longer than I could the week before, or I increase my pace on a 3-mile run by a certain amount. It gives me a place to expend effort in a positive direction no matter what. (Well, give or take injuries -- we all know how that can undermine this precarious equation.)

Third, I need to constantly work on finding a new balance. This fits into my first point, in a way. But basically we all have to seek out a balance at all times between enjoying the moment and living life in a sustainable way.

That last part is the real trick, isn't it?


Jank said...

So, I went through kind of the same thing. Going from 195 down to 180 was easy. To get from 180 down to 165 took the added step of religiously accounting for what went into my mouth, and what I did in exercise.

I kept that up for about 6 months, then stopped, and have drifted back up to about 170.

I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to get down below 160, which ought to qualify as a pretty good "fightin'" weight. Think it's time to invest in a new moleskine...

Tea said...


It's almost your body's way of saying "'ve lost weight. now how bad do you want to take the rest off? Because I can stay at THIS weight for a long long time."

It's some kind of mean joke I think.