It was January and I started a new food and exercise plan. I was excited about it and determined to make it work this time! I had planned out meals that included foods I loved. I had contingency plans for eating out. I planned out how and when to get my exercise in. I set my alarm clock to get up early on the days I would go to the YMCA to work out. This plan was so specific to me and to my lifestyle that it couldn’t fail! I couldn’t wait to get started!
WordSense Dictionary defines the phrase ‘feel the burn’ this way: “To feel the burning sensation arising in a muscle being intensely exercised; often used as an exhortation to extend oneself in physical exercise.” Whether or not you’re someone who loves to exercise until you feel the burn, I think there’s something we can take away from this idea of extending ourselves until we can feel progress.
In last week’s blog we talked about changing our resistance training to acceptance training. We’re going to resist the process of making changes to our bodies less and accept ourselves exactly as we are so we can transform our habits and ideas. This week let’s explore aerobics. These days, it’s more often called cardio exercise because it’s meant to strengthen our cardiovascular system. But aerobic is the word that I want to work with.
There’s a common saying that goes like this: “What you resist persists.” Basically, this is telling us that those things we don’t want to do, and we don’t want to look at, and we try our hardest to avoid, will hang around like a hungry puppy dog, begging for food and attention. No amount of resistance will make these things go away until we pay them some attention and feed them some energy.
We often think of January as a time to make resolutions to do new things, to change existing things, or to set goals for the coming year. We see the beginning of a new year as a time for a fresh start. We plan new projects, decide to make changes in our lives, and very often start a food and exercise plan. All of that is positive and good. In addition, I think there’s another way of thinking about the new year that validates the positive changes we’ve been making in our lives already.
By its very nature, any change we decide to make takes us out of our comfort zone. The status quo, how things are, how things have always been, is always easier and more comfortable than stepping into a ‘this is different’ zone. The thing we’re trying to change may not even be something that feels wrong. It may not feel like it’s going to be hard to do. The fact is, just because it’s a change, it’s always different from what we’ve been doing. So, we take those first steps. Then we forget to keep taking them for a while and we start over again. We get a little farther along and then something comes along to side-track us. So, we start again and again and again. We get a little farther each time. We find out what parts of our plan work best for us and maybe what doesn’t work for us. We adjust and start again.
In the past two blogs related to change, we spent time thinking about changing until we got ourselves fully on board with it. We allowed ourselves time to get used to the idea that we might want to change and to explore the reasons why making a change would benefit us. Then we took a good hard look at ourselves, our current habits, our environment, and our social structure in order to make a plan that will fit our needs and our desires. We want to feel normal as we are changing. That’s not to say we want to feel the same. Of course we want to feel better, but we also want to feel normal in the sense that we don’t feel like we’re in a totally different, unfamiliar universe. We don’t want to feel like our entire world has been turned upside down, so we make plans that set us up for success and that keep us excited for this new adventure we’re on.
The conventional wisdom around weight management says that in order for the changes we make to be permanent we have to make a lifestyle change. My personal viewpoint is that the change has to take place in our minds and in our hearts first. After that, the physical changes will follow easily and joyfully. Either way, the thought of making a lifestyle change can feel intimidating. When I would hear that phrase in the past, I would think that I had to completely disrupt life as I know it and learn to live some way that’s foreign to me, uncomfortable, and difficult. It never occurred to me that the lifestyle change could be made to my specifications so that it aligns with my core values and feels good. What would it take to make a lifestyle change work for me? What would that lifestyle change look like?
Do you know that feeling you get when things just aren’t going the way you want them to? Maybe you can’t exactly put your finger on what’s wrong, or maybe you know exactly what’s not going your way. You’re a little cranky all the time and no matter what you do, you feel unsettled, unsatisfied, just a little bit off. That’s what I go through when I know I need a change and I don’t want to face it. Part of me knows the solution to what’s ‘wrong’ and it always comes back home to me. If I want to feel better, I’m going to have to change something about my life or about myself.
“I want to drop 10 pounds before my class reunion in X months.”
“I’m going on a trip next summer and I want to lose 25 pounds by then.”
Have any of you ever made a statement like that, or set a goal with a deadline? Setting a deadline to hit a weight loss goal can be very complex. We are making changes that we want to last for a lifetime. We are changing the way we talk to ourselves, the way we think about food, the way we view our bodies, and the way we make choices on a day to day basis. We are changing our go-to thoughts and go-to actions on a fundamental level.
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