This is NOT the post I had intended to put up, but apparently, WordPress lied to me when I posted my blog on its regular date (Tuesday 6/20/2017). I would be less unhappy if the post had not just disappeared into the ether, so I could post it again, but it’s apparently VANISHED so, we start again from scratch! Ironically, that was the subject of the post for tomorrow: starting your fitness/ weight loss/ health journey from scratch, so other than losing a couple of days of work on my other post, it’s not a total loss.
Most of us have started this journey over and over again. We want to lose weight/ be healthier/ be more fit and so we embark on some plan, usually set up by someone else and get to work. Depending on how ambitious our plan is, we either go some distance before we start having problems, or if we or the plan are too ambitious, we can stumble out of the gate. Either way, once we encounter problems and/ or it gets really hard, we want to “start over.”
This is why we end up in a vicious cycle of starting-stumbling-starting. #1: whatever plan we start on, it needs to be OUR plan. WE need to be the author/ designer of whatever plan WE decide to follow. Too many of the weight loss and fitness plans we buy online, off tv or get in a book are made for the “general population.” Never met General Population, but apparently, he’s really popular with these health coaches! One of the trainers whose podcast I listen to regularly even commented that when he started his own fitness journey, he bought a popular exercise dvd and it was really painful. The day after starting the program, he woke up really sore and in pain. A little soreness is not a bad thing- it means you gave your body a workout, but pain is NOT a good thing- it means you hurt yourself! Granted, this trainer was not a trainer when he bought this workout dvd, but then you shouldn’t have to be a certified trainer in order to improve your own health and fitness.
Most of us tend to overestimate our physical abilities when we begin a health plan, or we go the other way and we underestimate what we are capable of doing. This is a case where I think underestimating is the best of the two. Overestimating, especially when you are doing a work out, can really hurt you as the trainer above found out. In his case, it was just a strain, but you can really hurt yourself if you try something “you think you can do.” If we underestimate our abilities, we can always add more or increase our range, and any workout we do, even if it doesn’t stretch our capabilities, it is still a work out and it keeps our muscles and joints in practice. For example, if you don’t normally walk a lot or run on a regular basis, trying to run a mile once a week may not be a good idea. You might be able to do it, but if you can’t, you don’t want to injure yourself trying. Begin by walking a mile and see how you feel. If it was easy, then next time try running for part of it. It’s easier to build up to running a mile a week than trying to run, hurting yourself and then having to recover. Besides hurting yourself, thinking you’ve “failed to run a mile” is discouraging. On the other hand, each time you build up to a new level- walking- running- running regularly and increasing your length or duration- leads not only increased capabilities, but also feelings of success: “I’m getting stronger and doing” more rather than “I failed.”
The same holds when you start a new eating/ weight loss plan: build up to your full potential. A lot of us are really enthusiastic when we start a new weight loss plan and we go full steam ahead: “I’m going to give up sugar!” “I’m going to eat five servings of veggies a day!” and then, by the time we’ve read the label on our sixth product that has sugar or it’s time for veggie number 4, we start “feeling the burn!” What the heck did we sign up for??
When I started with Paleo, I gave it a long hard look, and at the time, I thought I was going super-conservative when I opted to give up one grain product at a time. It turns out that I was way more into bread than even I knew! Potatoes and pasta weren’t problems but bread (any kind of bread!) was and is still a temptation. But I made one change at a time. Some of them, like the pasta and potatoes, were pretty easy but others like rice and oatmeal took a little longer. Bread got easier but there are still days when I really have remind myself that it’s not good for me.
And it’s not just about giving up foods: it’s about eating more of the healthy stuff like the veggies. So it’s two changes that you are making when it comes to eating healthier: eat less processed food and eat more whole foods. It takes some time to make the changes especially if you are going to make the changes last.
This goes for any activities you are adding in as well. We may think that these changes are not really “big changes”- it’s not like you’re moving or changing jobs! You may think these are little things, but have you ever noticed that when you trip over something and fall, it’s the inch high bit of concrete that you trip on and not the two foot stack of bricks? That’s because you notice the two feet of bricks but your eye misses the inch bit of concrete! We screw up on the little changes because “we forgot,” “it’s not a big deal,” “I can do that later.” This is why they take time to become fully incorporated into your routine- the more we do them, the more they become normal and then we do them out of habit. We also tend to overload ourselves because they are just little changes, but again, most of us can carry a couple of bricks easily, but carrying four or five or more?? That gets heavy! So when we make these little changes, we need to make one or two at a time until we make them part of our habit. Going small and steady results in long lasting permanent changes while going big and fast usually leads to starting over.
#2: you don’t need to “start over” each time. That’s the other fallacy that traps us in the vicious cycle. This is a lifestyle change, not an afghan we are crocheting! If we screw the beginning of an afghan, yeah, undoing it so we can start over is a good idea, otherwise, every one is going to notice those few inches that look really goofed up. But this is a lifestyle change and no one is going to see that you spent the first three weeks missing your scheduled workouts and eating more carbs or whatever than you planned on! So you missed your workout- just schedule another one! So you forgot to order the burrito bowl and ate a burrito instead! Some people will use these screw ups as an out- an excuse to push off their healthy change until next week or tomorrow, as in “today is a bust, so I’ll start fresh tomorrow/ Monday/ next week.” Why???? One of the things I really like about Dr. Nowzaradan (TLC My 600 lb Life) is that he’ll call the patients on it when they try to push off being active. He comes in and asks them if they’ve walked today and when they say they’ll do it tomorrow or they’ll do it on Sunday, he always asks them “what’s going to change between now and then?” Most of the time, they don’t have an answer for him. We need to be our version of Dr. Now when we want to push off our planned changes: you ate the burrito at lunch- big deal! So make dinner a better choice! Even if today does end up being a bust and we’ve eaten more bad food than good or we missed our workout, salvage the rest of the day/ week! Even with the poor food and work out choices, keep moving forward to make the best you can out of the day or week!
It really is like you are on a journey, and when you take a wrong turn, you don’t drive all the way back home to start over! You pull over, pull out your phone and get new directions from where you are! We’re all familiar with the Garmin joke: “recalculating…. recalculating…..” but it usually gets us where we need to go. When we take a wrong turn on our fitness/ weight loss journey, we may need to do some recalculating. It may be that our work out schedule needs some adjusting or that our eating plan isn’t the best for us and it needs to be recalculated, but we don’t have to start from scratch every time. We just need to keep what works and dump the rest. It’s a little harder figuring it out on your own. It takes more time to show progress but the truth is finding your own way usually means the progress is permanent and you eventually become your own expert on you. This last time you start over will be the last time you start over!