Thursday, February 10, 2011

this go-round: kind to myself

Getting fit / losing weight / eating better can focus so much on all the things that have been wrong, plus a long list of things that Must Be Done To Do It Right.

The process can revolve around setting high goals, introducing good habits, eliminating bad ones, and all this all at once. Because things were bad! And I want them to be good!

In previous attempts to adopt a healthy lifestyle, I've spent a lot of time making plans, writing lists, establishing incremental goals and imagining a finish line.

But this is all to say that this approach can be ... stressful. It can feel a lot like setting myself up for failure. If I decide that certain actions fall in the "good" category and others fall in the "bad" category, I seem to leave myself little room for forgiveness when I inevitably stumble back into a bad habit, or fail to achieve a good one.

this time around
I can feel a difference in myself with this most recent attempt to be healthful: I talk about my goals for the gym as my "ultimate" goals; I eat the donut (and count the points); I sleep in some mornings that I'd planned to head to the gym.

I hadn't found it terribly easy to articulate why I think this is the right approach this time, but I tried to relate it to someone just the other day, and I think I hit the nail on the head. It went something like:

I'm working very hard to do the right things, but I'm taking an approach this time around that allows me to sleep in some mornings. I have to believe I'm making the right choices for myself; that belief is going to be the foundation of my success.

So why is this looser tactic good for me right now? I see two key things that make it feel right:

1. (Specific to my gym goals) I want to establish a happy relationship with my exercise. There are some mornings I DO NOT WANT to go the gym. On those days, I would be very grudgingly hitting my alarm clock at 5 a.m., I'd be donning workout attire that would likely feel a size too small (because of my own frustration at even being awake) and I would take my heavy, slow legs to the elliptical machine.

I ain't dumb. I know that on days like that, many people say that once they make themselves go and get on the machine, they feel better. And I'll get there, one day. But right now, I want to work on building a strong and happy relationship with exercise. I want to reinforce the notion that the gym is a place I go because I'm excited to go there. That it's a place I go because I have the energy and motivation to make it part of my life.

And I have those days a lot. And I have this strong notion that those days will breed more days like that. And then longer visits to the gym. And  then adding weights to my routine. And a class.

I want to nurture my exercise through positive experiences. I *also* want to have room for forgiveness on the days I don't wake up at 5 a.m. and don sneakers. I don't want to rack up guilt over my actions. I know me. Feelings of guilt feed my bad habits. So how about eliminating that guilt?

2. (And I think this is perhaps more valuable) I want to trust myself. The lists, goals, enumeration of bad habits that I've taken up in the past, they sometimes felt like penance for having made wrong, unhealthy choices.

The thing is, I'm not a bad person. Nor am I an untrustworthy sentinel of my own happy life. I treat myself like I am sometimes, and that's another way I rack up guilt; another reason to berate myself; another way to introduce negativity into my life.

I can trust myself. I refuse to do otherwise.

So adopting the attitude that I know it'll all be OK if I decide to skip the gym this morning or to eat that one donut, it's empowering. Because what I *know* is that I'll continue to make good choices. I'm going to find bad choices peppered through my life. It will seldom be the bad choices themselves that lead to trouble, but the idea that I can't recover from them, or that they define me.

I'm defined by the smart, able person that I am. I'd like to start giving her credit.

caveat, of course
These two concepts only work in the context of me having finally come to terms with the work that it takes to be healthy. If I had never learned how to eat nutritiously or that exercise was an absolute must in my life, these could easily be crutches to justify bad decision after bad decision.

I get the feeling, though, that I have learned some things that I cannot unlearn ... about how to be a thoughtful eater and a motivated, active person. Within *that* context, this approach feels absolutely right.


  1. From my own experience with trying to get fit and lose weight and weight watchers and everything in between, this seems like the best attitude to have. We all need a little self-forgiveness in our lives.

    I kind of just trickled over to your blog after Patrick posted on Facebook about your Plum Baker Project. I read your goals, and it made me think of the following post on Jezebel.!5689226/a-call-to-arms-and-abs-quads-calves-and-shoulders

    I look forward to reading your blog some more :)

  2. Modern Gal, I love this. And then I read this quote:

    "There's merit in finding something-anything- to do with your body that you love."

    It's precisely something I've planned to write about! Strong bodies are so vital; finding out how to enjoy your strong body is The Way.

    Thank you for sharing this link!

    (And I look forward to writing this blog some more, too ;) )