July 31, 2004

motivate, also stats

I found myself thinking about motivation this week. I was so jazzed about weight loss this time last year. I read the Weight Watchers boards and the Bootcamp Buddies boards and billions or at least a dozen weight loss weblogs and all the links therein. I weighed and measured and experimented and walked through supermarket aisles resisting the siren call of the sweets shelves and I was so very proud of myself as the pounds dropped off. Magic, I thought. This is so easy, I thought. Why doesnít everyone do this?

Part of it then was the relief. Iíd carried around the extra poundage for years as if it were my Dantean curse. My penance, my sentence. I suffer the insecurity and low self-esteem that caused and was caused by this, my extra layer of fat. I suffer because I deserve to suffer even if I donít quite know why. I am round and sad and uncouth and this is my fate.

So of course when I started seeing the pounds drop away, I was thrilled. No necessary penance after all. Instead, a cage of my own making. The bars withering away with every bite of apple instead of cake, Wasa cracker instead of bagel. I was a convert and giddy with it.

But the points counting got tiresome and the regimen got difficult and my body felt good the way it was and life got complicated and emotionally charged and my weight stopped going down no matter how diligent I was. And it was so easy to say forget this. So easy to say Just for this one week. Just for now. Just until this crisis is over. I needed comfort and comfort was still food. I thought I had enough control, I had enough of a buffer, and I had gotten deeply enough into the routine of this weight loss that I could slow down and at least maintain.

I didnít. This may sound odd, but it was very much on purpose and with glee aforethought that I didnít. I ate too rich, too much, too often. I stopped exercising. And it felt good, nearly as good as it had felt last year exercising and being oh-so-careful. It wasnít like Iíd lost the motivation, it was like Iíd gained the anti-motivation. Motivation to lose the weight-loss mindset. To fall into indulgence, to swim in it. And when my clothes started getting uncomfortable and my reflected image started getting rounder again, I tried to imagine going back on the diet-and-exercise path. I couldnít. What had seemed so easy now seemed like some kind of fantastical, improbable dream. How do you gain the mindset? How do you lose it? Where does it go and how do you retrieve it?

I have some thoughts, not fully formed yet. But they go something like this: when I lost the weight, I was feeling good about myself. Good about what I was doing. I had a passion for it. But a passion is hard to maintain. And when I hit a months-long plateau, the passion slipped away. Triumph had sustained me. When I lost that, I lost my forward momentum. And weight loss is a lot of work. When I had to use that same mental/emotional juice for something else, I stopped the regimen. And because it hasnít really been that long, I hadnít created solid enough new habits. So when I was under tremendous stress this spring (the kindergarten tangle, among other things) it was far easier to slip back into the food-as-love mode. And until I started feeling good about myself again Ė my recent photo job helped, as did winning a victory in the school battle Ė- I couldnít turn that around.

I donít know how it works for other people. I only know that for me I have to feel upbeat and positive about myself and my life in order to lose weight. Love yourself, allow yourself to do this. More, though, I think itís crucial to not be beating yourself up about this slip and that slip. Itís crucial to think ďI can! Iím strong and mighty, I have a food scale and Iím not afraid to use it!Ē rather than ďI have so much to lose, how did I let this happen? I suck!Ē

Some people may have to hit bottom before deciding to do something about their problems: their alcohol or drug abuse, their smoking addiction, their unhealthy eating patterns. For me, I think itís the opposite. I have to feel energized and positive and only then can I get on that Nordic Track and sweat my way down the scale. Recently Iíve looked in the mirror and shrugged: ďYeah, Iíll get rid of that extra bit,Ē rather than ďUgh.Ē Makes a big psychological difference. Huge.

Weight loss stats for the week:

Ate sensibly. Well, sort of. A couple of decadent desserts but only after very light dinners. Lots of fruit. Not enough veggies.

Exercised once: Nordic Track, 30 minutes. Yes, once. Yes, I know. Not good. Yeah, well. It happens. This week, Iíll do better. I have motivation: Iíve gotten addicted to Nip/Tuck, have to work out to watch it. (Of course, I did work up a sweat rolling primer on the walls in Damian's closet one afternoon and also more sweat moving stuff out of his room another morning, so my total exercise quotient is closer to three days' worth. I think. That kind of thing is harder to measure. What if one box you move is light? What if two thirds are light but the others are really heavy? Is it still the same as a short bout of free weights?)

Scale says: Down one pound. Itís a mystery to me. Just as Alison-Jane said recently, you canít let the number on a specific hour of a specific day in a specific week rule your life. This is also one reason I left Weight Watchers; too close attention to the scale: "What was it last week? Oh, then you havenít worked hard enough this week." This week, of course, it would be smiles and congratulations and yes, I am pleased, but weíll see what it says tomorrow and next week and next month. Iím in this for the overall, not the single weigh-in.


On to next week. Damianís room wonít be assembled until Tuesday at the earliest, but I can still work out in and around the chaos. I think.

Posted by Tamar at July 31, 2004 11:09 PM

This all makes heaps of sense to me. When I first started weight watchers - nearly two years ago now, when Liam was about 6 months old and the weight I'd been accumulating for years started to fall off - it was so easy to be motivated, counting points, going for walks. Probably breastfeeding around every 1-2 hours around the clock contributed. I lost about 20 kilos all up over 18 months (but mostly in the first 6).

But the first time I got sick was the I first time fell off the wagon. And everytime I got back on the wagon, something as little as a cold could knock me off again. And I don't mean just for the duration of the cold.

Then this year I completely let myself go, rediscovering the link between chocolate and study. I just found it too difficult to focus on counting points and exercising when I was also struggling to fit in reading and writing essays.

I only regained a little, but I can see how it would all come back pretty easily. I simply haven't stuck to the plan long enough to make it first nature. In the between semesters break I managed to start again, hoping to lose about 3 more kilos before trying to get pregnant again. I lost one, but now uni has started again...

I was tempted to take up your stats challenge, but next cycle we are planning to start trying for another baby. So as of next week I am officially off the hook for at least a year.

Posted by: Kay at August 5, 2004 09:49 PM

Okay, I am on board with putting up stats, or at least vague indications of how I'm doing. I think I'm going to write about this, but since WW didn't work for me, I've been advised to try a low carb Atkins-like plans, which I have been doing for three days and am just dying for all my old favorites (even my old diet favorites are off limits). I have twenty pounds to lose as of Monday, and I've lost two this week, while being sick with a very bad headache. Could just be water weight. Excercised twice so far (15 aerobics, 20 other). Today's Sat., the 14th... will check in next Sat.

Posted by: toni at August 14, 2004 04:21 PM