Friday, June 5, 2009

Staying Focused For The Long Haul (and some vehicle news)


My new used Jeep and I bonded on our maiden voyage to P’burgh today.

I bought an ’07 Jeep Liberty, and she has 15,000 miles, a sunroof, 6-cylinder/3.7L engine, heated leather seats, 6-disc CD player, Sirius, tinted windows, theft protection, and my favorite: keyless entry. I know that sounds silly to be my favorite, but with the kind of wrist arthritis I have, keyless entry is a godsend. Old Paint the Cherokee had very difficult locks and I cringed every time I had to lock her up and open her back up. Now it’s a breeze.

This new Jeep has a little different temperament than Old Paint, and she’s definitely more high falutin’ and bitchy (in a good diva way) due to her very cool heated leather seats. What cracks me up is that we paid less for her than we did for no-bells-and-whistles-just-straight-up-Jeep Old Paint in 1998. Go figure. She’s got power and style and I’m sure we’ll be BFF in a few hundred miles.

Thanks everyone for your kind comments about Old Paint, and especially for sharing your own car stories. I know a car is just an object, technically, but really? Cars are so much more. They are a big part of our lives, like our beds or favorite kitchen utensils. We spend a LOT of time in our cars (and beds and using kitchen utensils) and they are an intricate part of our existence.

Kinda like our bodies. Which leads me to my real blog and weight loss/maintenance and my answer to reader Lee’s questions from a few weeks ago.

Lee wrote: “Did you just make your mind up to lose the weight and stick to it and never struggle with it again? Or do you still struggle? When you were losing the weight, did you ever wonder if you would make it? Did you ever lose focus and have to mentally re-program yourself again?”

There are several layers underpinning these questions, so I’ll try to answer them separately.

I did just make up my mind to lose weight this last time (god knows I’d made up my mind many times before). But it was a decision culled from a long, thought-out mental process.

When I began losing weight this last time, I knew it had to be the last time or I would die young. But I didn’t approach it as physically as I do now. That unfolding came later. Here’s what I mean (and you might recognize this as part of the piece I wrote for CNN):

I had so many feelings floating around in my head when I weighed 300 pounds – inadequacy, anger, and overall helplessness. I vacillated for months between accepting my body as it was and choosing to lose weight. I journaled tough questions: How did I feel about my body. How much did I love myself? Was I worth changing for? It was difficult and often uncomfortable work, I won’t lie, but once I was honest with myself and became better acquainted with the emotions that bothered me most, I was ready to lose weight.

Working through those issues, or at least confronting them, left me better prepared for the “tough love” it took to discipline that weak voice inside that said, “This is hard. I want chocolate (or fries or animal crackers or any other simple carb you can imagine). Feed me.” I learned to say no to myself and I committed to learning new behaviors that helped me change “I can’t” to “I will.” This is what helped me stick to it.

Many of us have decided at some point in our lives to change something – jobs, relationships, residences, and weight – only to get part of the way in and get bored or find the process hard or dull. It’s easy to forget our original intention and lose momentum. Other feelings and experiences get in the way and time erodes the original excitement or motivation. How do you recapture that initial “thing” that pushed you over the edge to say, “I can do it! I WILL do it!”

For me, it was always keeping one very important aspect in mind: my health.

Yes, I struggled with weight loss sometimes. I still struggle to maintain once in awhile. But it’s mostly a mental fight, not a physical one. I’ve developed tools – mostly mindfulness and meditation – to help me step back, breathe, and recognize those times I was in a position to jeopardize my health goals.

Around the time Lee asked me her questions, Debby posted in her blog, Debby Weighs In, how she sometimes finds herself comparing her body to people who are years younger than she is. She wrote, “…on my way out to the car after work, I had a thought that was more than a thought – it was like a deep feeling. And it was, ‘Who do you think you are? You are a 54-year-OLD woman. It’s ridiculous for you to be trying to work out and build muscles. You will never look like those young firm girls. You look like a fool.’”

I posted this comment: “I think those same things, too, sometimes, particularly when I work out in the gym. My gym is the student rec center at our local university so I'm surrounded by nubile 20-year-olds for 90 minutes. What I've done is changed my way of looking at my workouts and what I want from them. I will never have the body of a 20-year-old, but I can have the strongest, most healthy 45-year-old body. Right now, at our age, it's so important to build muscle and strong bones so we're not falling down when we're 80 and breaking our hips. The body I have right here, right now, is the one I'm taking into old age, and by god I'm going to do everything I can to insure I'm the healthiest old lady I can be.”

If you don’t have any physical ailments right now and are in the process of losing weight, I can see how it would be hard to use health as a stimulus or motivation to continue your journey. However, I would challenge you to see into the future. Where do you want to be 5, 10 or 20 years from now? Will you have grandchildren you want to keep up with? Is there travelling you’d like to do without having to worry about your weight? A future health goal can be just as motivating as a current health goal.

For me, getting to and staying the size I am gives me the best possible health advantage. Keeping my wrists strong through strength training helps me open doors and jars of pickles and that impossible plastic packaging on electronic devices. Keeping my legs strong insures I won’t have to have both of my knees replaced next week. Keeping my shoulders strong insures that despite rotator cuff tears and biceps tendon tears, my arms can lift and toss and cuddle my grandchildren without fear of dropping them.

As for my heart and arteries and all those other internal organs, getting to and staying at the weight I am reduces my chance of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other diseases.

In those times when I could have given in to some food that would derail me, I kept my liver and kidneys and heart and knees and shoulders in mind and said no….MOST of the time. I am NOT perfect in any way, shape or form. But it is always my original intention – health – that I keep in the forefront of my thinking and decision making process. Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish?

Fall in love with your intention, burn it in your brain. Love it and believe in it even when you’re tired and bored and unsure. It’s the only way I’ve found to struggle less and to stay focused.

5 comments:

  1. Congrats on the new (to you!) car - my parents have heated seats in their car and I LOVE them - also great if you have a back ache...crank the heat up and go for a drive!

    Nice reminder about doing this for your health - mine is pretty good right now, but I see other heavy people suffering because of their weight (bad knees, etc) and I feel like I've dodge a bullet by hopefully heading off those problems while losing the weight and getting healthier. And I intend on staying in this way of living.

    Cute pic of the grands - Luca is already getting big!

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  2. Wow, Lynn, what a great post.

    What's interesting to me is that those thoughts I had were just that. By the time I got to the car I had already decided that yes, they might be true, but I was going to keep fighting--for exactly what you are writing about--my health. And since then I have pretty much been on the straight and narrow, both exercise and eating-wise. And I feel great!

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  3. substitute knees for wrists and you described my own thought process perfectly. You are talking about - moving TOWARD something - and not being so wrapped up in feeling like you are deprived of something. REALLY GOOD POSTING.

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  4. Nice wheels! You are so right... If I don't do the work now, I will be miserable and in pain for the rest of my short life. I want more than that!

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  5. Great post! For me, it was back surgery at age 38! By age 40 I just decided I had to get my act together and thus the journey towards the best health I could manage began. I view my 40's as my insurance policy years--eat right and exercise and continue that lifestyle so that I am as healthy as I can be at age 80!

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