Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Step By Step

There are a few time-honored stories which have always bugged me, including several from wisdom literature.

The biblical story of the prodigal son gets under my skin because I relate to the brother who stayed home and did as he was told.

Aesop's fable of the tortoise and the hare doesn't set well with me either. Like the hare, I tend to accomplish things in bursts of energy, often preceded by procrastination and immediately followed by exhaustion (and occasionally a sizable dollop of self-loathing). With considerable effort, I can make myself work systematically on a project if I believe it's absolutely necessary, but slow-and-steady has never come naturally to me. I know who wins the race, but there just doesn't seem to be much tortoise in me.

My hare-like tendencies are all too well suited to yo-yo dieting. Perhaps my one saving grace is being such a picky eater that I've not been tempted by most fad diets. Nonetheless, I have a history of putting off exercise and healthy eating for fairly long stretches, punctuated by bursts of nutritional perfectionism which I cannot hope to sustain.

I'd really like to step off that roller coaster.

I'm taking it slowly this time and trying to be mindful of the whole process--not only what I eat and how I move, but also my thinking. I want to be honest with myself about what I can and will maintain and allow the time and space I need to establish habits I'm not bound to abandon as soon as I've hit some magic number on the scale or desired dress size, and to incorporate any underlying emotional work I have to do along the way.

I'm also considering realistically the consequences of further procrastination and inaction on my part. Taking good care of myself may not be as fun as eating all the fudge I want, but the ultimate consequences of neglect are hardly appealing. At my age, the word "ultimate" isn't way off in the distance any more. I'm already dealing with some of those consequences, so I'm ready to gently but firmly set a healthier course.

It's time to summon my inner tortoise and get more comfortable with the part of me who appreciates taking things slowly and thoughtfully, recognizing that healthy living is not a short-term project. At the same time, I can make peace with the fact that my approach to things may always be somewhat non-linear and a little bit lumpy.

Change is not only possible; it is inevitable. The question is how active a role I will take in that process. I don't have to watch helplessly as entropy takes over. Neither do I have to make everything into some enormous uphill test of strength or resolve.

All of this sounds pretty reasonable in the abstract, but I'm not yet sure what it will look like in real life. The elusive quest for balance is certainly nothing new and extends well beyond the realm of diet and exercise. The great thing about letting go of my hare persona, though, is that I don't have to figure it all out at once. I can work on it gradually, as I go along. The main thing I need to do at this point is to simply keep taking the next step in the general direction I want to go.

I may run into a few roadblocks and take a detour or two. I'm sure I'll need to make some mid-course corrections, but that's not such a big deal when you aren't charging ahead at 90 miles-per-hour.

The way of living that I establish for myself is more important to me than the number of pounds I lose or the size clothes I wear. So I'm going to take the time I need to pay attention to what I'm doing, as I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I intend to make the most of this journey.


  1. I'm right there with ya, Lenora. I've been on this journey so many times before, but never with the "let it be" attitude I seem to have adopted this time. My goals are different, too. Instead of wanting to make my WW goal weight, or get down to a size 6...this time I want to control my blood pressure naturally with diet and exercise so I can stop taking medication. I want to have less of me to haul around so that my reduced lung capacity will work better and be more comfortable. I want to be able to sit indian-style on the floor without feeling the pull of rusty tendons. And I want to be free of my addictive eating patterns as concerns sweets and "white" carbs. All very different from previous weight-loss forays... So that's where I am in the process today.

    Keep this articles coming...I'm loving them.


  2. It sounds like we share a lot of similar goals, Nana. The menopause fairy brought charming little gifts with her like elevated cholesterol levels, and I'd love to avoid taking medication for it. And if I don't get stronger soon, it's only a matter of time until I have to call for volunteers to hoist me back up one day after I reach down to get something off the bottom shelf at the grocery store. But I am definitely trying to go about things a little differently this time around.

    Thanks so much for your encouragement, Nana, and for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it and hope that in a few months we can both look back on these conversations with the satisfaction of having made some real and lasting progress.