That is the answer. I have more to say, of course, but that is the answer. The question came recently from a friend. “How do you get past Week One?” Hmmm…that’s a good one. It stumped me. What do I know?
What possible advice can I offer on staying the course to a healthier you? I’m still en route, I still have to think about my choices every day. Healthy choices and a healthy body/body image are not automatic for me. I have to consciously choose them, and I’m still surprised by my own success. Sometimes I try on things in my closet just to remind myself that I really do fit into them, that I have earned my goals, and apparently I’m sticking to them. This surprises and makes me happy all over again. Thinking back to “Week One” is complicated for me. For starters, I’ve had more than one “Week One.” And honestly, “Week One” happens over and over.
Just the phrase “Week One” has many meanings to me. It can be very literally the first week of any effort to make changes in my life. Week One has it’s own energy. It is fresh, it has new information, an attainable goal, and it usually ends with a big success. “I lost five pounds!” “I exercised 6 of 7 days this week!” “I didn’t eat any refined carbs!” All of which are extreme and difficult to repeat or maintain. At the end of Week One, I want to shout and celebrate and then say, “That was fun! Can I be finished with that now?” Week One is really just a honeymoon phase. The novelty wears off and I realize that I have to keep working on this. So let me share with you a few tools I find myself using to force myself to keep moving forward with my goals.
First, I focus on “Future Me.” I talk about her like she is a separate person. In fact, she is like a fully formed separate person and I cannot let her down anymore. There is something that she wants, and she needs me to do this work for her. She is begging, praying, and hoping with every cell in her body that I will do this thing for her. How can I let her down? I can feel her eagerness to reach this goal; I can feel her happiness in celebrating my achievement. Yes, she is going to celebrate my achievement. I know it is going to feel so good, and I know it will all have been worth the effort. What is even better than thinking about her happiness is the realization that I will get to BE her! I will be the one who did the work and reaped the rewards. I want that feeling. I can not wait to feel that pride!
Next there is good old-fashioned fear. Of failure. I know how that feels. I cannot bear it again. I just can’t. So to keep this simple: I cannot fail. I believe that I am not going to allow myself to fail, I cannot tolerate that feeling again. I will settle for nothing less than feeling successful and proud.
Another tool is using “place holders.” I do not let a day go by without including whatever critical but tender and new behavior I am establishing. For example, if you’ve paid attention to me at all, you know exercise is a critical daily component. Right now I am completely in love with my exercise program, but that has not always been the case. If I don’t exercise, I’m likely to let other things slide too. There are days when exercise is almost impossible. Either there truly isn’t time, or I’m tired, or I just don’t feel like exercising. On those days I exercise anyway. I don’t care if I only walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes, or walk the dog around the block, or spend 15 minutes in my room doing squats and pushups. I can NOT let the habit of daily exercise go. I call this “place holder exercise.” I didn’t have to achieve an amazing cardio burn or try to reach new highs in reps or weight. I simply made the time to move my body on day when I really didn’t want to. The next day, I’m not facing a new trend of not exercising. I start the day knowing I still exercise daily. So get going.
After the “place holder” idea comes the “push harder” idea. It’s the crazy party of “place holder exercise!” I usually end up pushing harder that I planned to just to prove a point. I am almost offended by my own “I can’t…” attitude. Sometimes these are the days I set an extra five minutes on the stair climber; or do an extra set of squats, or push myself to some other new level. I teach myself that “I can’t” is a myth. That I actually can, and will, and that the days of “I can’t” are so few and far between that I need not concern myself with them. Those are days of extreme illness or crisis and so far today is not one of them. So I do more than I really intended to, more than I thought I could.
Lastly, I employ sheer will and brute force. It looks like this: usually my exercise comes early in the day and the bad food choices come later in the afternoon and evening. I am a ROCK STAR of good choices until 3:00 pm. Poof! 3:00 pm arrives and everything I see is fair game! But I have already worked hard that morning, and I know that even an AMAZING workout is probably only a 700-800 calorie deficit. That can be gone in 30 seconds if there is ice cream or a bag of Oreos nearby. I steel myself for those moments. How hard did I work out? Did I sweat? Did I bear down and use every fiber of my being to finish that workout? Did I insist on nothing less than success? Then so be it with nutrition. If I have to sweat and grunt and work and focus all of my energy, then that is what I will do. But I am not going to dishonor my own time and effort in movement by mindlessly undoing the good I have already accomplished. Not today. And today is all I can really control.
Unfortunately, that is not a big happy list of easy little tricks. But such a list does not exist. Change is not easy, especially making real, lasting change. Sometimes the small changes can be the hardest! They can be the tiniest, most mindless things, yet create a very big impact when I try substituting behaviors that make a healthier me. Personally, continuing beyond Week One is all about the changes I know I am willing to make, that I believe I can maintain, so I can be really happy with myself. I have come to crave that happiness. So much so that I am willing to do what will bring me face to face with “future me,” when we will look each other in the eyes, and smile and say “oh yes…you ROCKED your own world, girlfriend. Well done.”