Waiting for the Gopher: Staying on Track

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

With all due respect to TR, I think doing nothing has its place, especially in the weight loss world. It reminds me of a cat my grandmother had a long time ago.  My grandparents lived on a ranch and there were always gophers around. We’d have to watch our step on the lawn because of the gopher holes, and she had one cat who stalked those little diggers relentlessly.  One summer day, she was sitting patiently a couple feet from the newest hole, staring at it,  and she waited. And waited. And waited.  She didn’t move a muscle: no yawning, scratching, lying down.  She was a cat statue and some of us commented on it, because we knew she was waiting for the gopher, and sure ‘nough: the last thing that gopher did was pop his nose out of the hole, and all we saw was the blur of that cat pouncing, reaching into the hole and pulling the gopher out- there was a brief blurry fight and then the cat dashed off with her reward.  SUCCESS!! The entire process took several hours of no movement followed by a few seconds of furious activity before she finally got her just dessert, but the cat didn’t give up.

It would have been easy for the cat to lay down, stop being vigilant, take a bath, close her eyes: that gopher will surely pop up soon, but she knew she needed to be focused.  When he popped up, if he saw or smelled her, he’d be gone and the opportunity would be lost.  She surely wasn’t going to starve if she didn’t get the gopher, since my grandparents provided her with a home and food, but then she wouldn’t get what she wanted: the gopher (maybe they are the version of cat caviar- who knows?) We are a lot like the cat, much more so than we really want to admit.  We are waiting for the “gopher.”

It probably feels like we are standing still, keeping our eyes focused on the scale, waiting for the number to drop, and it feels like we have been standing there since the beginning of time. We keep following the diet, doing the exercise, saying no to all the forbidden foods we used to eat regularly, passing on the beer and drinks with our friends, and it’s. taking. for. f***ing. ever!! We just want it to be DONE already!! (Ahhh!!) I know.  I’m there with you!! I’ve been doing this for about a year and a half and I’m not even halfway to my goals!! I’m soo tired of no/ slow progress; dropping two pounds, up one and a half, down three, up two, down, up, down, up.  The good news is I’m slowly ratcheting downward, but it’s in small increments, and it’s sure as hell not a fast drop!!

And while I’m “being good” and following my weight loss program (mostly Paleo), everyone else is not running to the gym and is eating the chips and chocolate, and not paying any attention to their weight or their health and they look pretty happy and healthy. I’m denying (read: punishing) myself and not reaping any measurable benefit! I’m stuck in Weight Loss Limbo: the Land That Time Forgot (booming echo-voice). I’m the cat waiting for the gopher. BTW, how did that cat know that gopher was going to come up out that hole??


She didn’t.  How could she?  She’s a cat, but she followed her instincts. This is where our “big brains” do us wrong: we talk ourselves out of being patient.  Sooner or later, the gopher would pop up and the cat would be there waiting, but only if she were patient enough. If she opted to lay down, take a bath, go sleep in the shade, the gopher would show himself, and then go back down, and the cat would have missed her opportunity. Sooner or later, the number on the scale will drop, but only IF – bigger “if” here for us- we stay focused and patient with our eyes on our goals.The gopher will stick his head up, whether the cat is there or not, but if we stop following our weight loss program, there will be no “gopher” for us: the scale will most definitely move, but in the direction we don’t want it to go.  More than missing out on our reward, we will have really punished ourselves by going backwards.

This is the difference between “doing nothing” and “doing the wrong thing.” It feels like we are doing nothing and going nowhere, but really we are being patient and being focused. The cat was very still, but she was very focused, which is saying a lot because there were a lot of people walking and talking on the other part of the lawn.  She was ignoring us and staying focused on the gopher hole.  We need to ignore everyone else, eating the burgers and fries and drinking the beer and hanging out, while we focus on our goals.  We don’t have be “cat statues,” but we do need to be vigilant- because the number on the scale will go down, but only if we have been patient enough.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work~ Thomas Edison

This is our opportunity to stand strong and do the work.  Edison was right, because opportunity doesn’t knock on our door like the Prize Patrol with a big ol’ weight loss check for us.  We don’t send in the “I wanna lose weight” entry and then “win” out of the blue: “Yay- I lost 25 pounds!!” Uh….. no.  Losing weight is work.  Worse, it’s work that takes a long time.  It’s hard work, which is why everyone hates it and the weight loss/ fitness industry is making money hand over fist with plans, potions, and gizmos that are “guaranteed” (eye roll riiiight wink) to make you lose weight quickly, easily and painlessly. We’ve all seen the late commercials for a certain unnamed pill that will make you lose weight superfast no sweat!! If it were really that easy, everyone would be thin and/ or healthy.  You would buy the little box of pills and in a couple of months be thin as a rail and that would be the end of it.

We all know that’s not true. This is where people get into trouble trying to avoid the hard work that goes with losing weight and/ or getting healthy.  They opt for the short cut- the “magic pill”- that has short term effects which wear off and lead to weight gain, or even worse, have devastating health effects. They take the potions, have unnecessary and often irreversible surgery and more often than not, end up in the same situation they were before, if they don’t end up worse.  (Sadly, I’ve known people who opted for the short cut and died as a result. It’s one of the things that keeps me motivated to do it the old fashioned hard way!)

It takes a long time for you to change your habits and it takes a long time for your body to change. This is what makes weight loss so incredibly frustrating, because we live in a world where everything is almost instantaneous.  Weight loss and getting healthy are the complete opposite of “instant.” It’s a series of opportunities that lead one to another, building into a habit, which leads to sustained changes in your body.  It’s tough, because even though we know the opportunities aren’t just going to come knocking on our door, they come masked in situations that look like birthday parties, nights out with the gang, and the donuts at the Monday morning meetings.  These sound and look like work, because they are, dressed in temptation.  You can do the work and make the healthy choice that will move you farther down the path to your goal, or you can not do the work and miss the opportunity. You can say no to the donuts, the drinks, the birthday cake; say yes to the apple, the seltzer. This is where, like the cat, you have the choice to give up or stay focused. The cat could have given up on the gopher and gone rubbing up against us at the BBQ and gotten some hamburger for no trouble at all (I bet it tastes better than raw gopher!) but she didn’t.  She was focused.  She was motivated! Aren’t we tougher and smarter than a cat?? (If my kitty heard me say this, I’d be as dead as that gopher!) This is where we either give up or stand up:  “I’ve been following my diet for ten months and I’ve only lost ten measly pounds! Mmmm, pound cake… I wonder if I can get some at the bakery??” or “Dammit- I can do this! I didn’t come this far to back down now!!” This is where we either throw in the towel or pull on the overalls! This is where doing “nothing” really is doing the right thing!


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