This blog entry started out as just a quick blurb to go along with an article I was forwarding on Facebook, and quickly morphed into a larger analysis of how this year has gone for me, with regards to my 2013 resolution to lose weight and get healthier.
Here's the full text: Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.
The whole article is awesome, and an excerpt that really spoke to me is this:
1. Goals reduce your current happiness.
When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”
The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”
SOLUTION: Commit to a process, not a goal.
Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on your shoulders. Can you imagine if I had made it my goal to write two books this year? Just writing that sentence stresses me out.
But we do this to ourselves all the time. We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.
When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.
2. Goals are strangely at odds with long-term progress.
You might think your goal will keep you motivated over the long-term, but that’s not always true.
Consider someone training for a half-marathon. Many people will work hard for months, but as soon as they finish the race, they stop training. Their goal was to finish the half-marathon and now that they have completed it, that goal is no longer there to motivate them. When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it?
This can create a type of “yo-yo effect” where people go back and forth from working on a goal to not working on one. This type of cycle makes it difficult to build upon your progress for the long-term.
Wow. Yeah... been there, learned that the hard way, and I'm doing my best to keep reminding myself that it's not about the destination, it's about the journey, as clichéd as that is. I have a pretty hard head, so I have to keep hammering the idea in.
My journey this year has had it's ups and downs. I've had setbacks with back injuries, weight gain from steroids used to treat said injuries, knee injuries, and my weight doing the yo-yo up and down with various vacations and times I lost my focus. I've made a lot of progress this year, but it's been anything but smooth sailing. Initially, I was only keeping track of my progress by weights and tape measurements. I'd get too hung up on those numbers, and when the pounds and inches weren't coming off as fast as I thought they should be, I'd get incredibly frustrated and discouraged, and I'd lose my motivation.
I lost a nice bit of weight pretty quickly in the first five months or so of 2013, but then the pounds started coming off REALLY slowly, and my scale progress slowed to a snail's pace. I was counting calories, eating healthy more often than not, and working out, but that promised 2 lb loss per week just wasn't happening, and it was really messing with my mojo. I slipped back a bit, but eventually managed to get myself back on track.
A few months ago, I got the okay from my doc to start the "Couch to 5k" running program. It's supposed to be an 8 week program to take a beginning runner from novice to 5k (or 30 minutes.) I started in late September, and I've had some stops and starts, and two weeks long stints away from home, but I've kept coming back to it, and I'm making good progress. I've gone from not being able to run more than 30 seconds (back in April, when I first started working out again) to running 25 minutes (2 miles!) at a stretch. Whew! I never, EVER thought I'd be able to do that, and the prospect of trying, frankly, terrified me. I'm slow, and still quite a ways off from completing a 5k run, but I'm still doing it, and still making progress.
I've gotta tell you, I absolutely *hate* running while I'm doing it. It's slow torture. By the end of it, my legs burn, my back hurts, and I feel like I must be absolutely daft to be putting myself through the misery of it all, but I love how much better my body feels the rest of the time I'm not on the damn treadmill, and it's making some nice changes in my muscle definition.
Now, back to why that article spoke to me. In the past few months, mainly since I started running, I feel like I've been able to shift my focus away from only losing weight, to measuring my progress in multiple areas, and actually feeling good about it, instead of feeling like those measures of progress were just a consolation prize. I made the purchase of a really good scale an ARIA WI-FI SMART SCALE from Fitbit that measures weight, body fat percentage, and provides the weights for both your lean body mass, and your fat. I LOVE that thing! It automatically syncs my weight and body fat stats with my Fitbit Flex activity tracker, both of which are integrated in the food and activity tracking iPhone app I use from My Fitness Pal. Yeah, I'm a techie kid, and I love tracking my metrics every which way.
I took a break from the gym and my diet plan for the past three weeks over the holidays, and naturally, I gained four pounds back. Now, with the return of those four pounds, my weight is more or less the same it was 4 months ago, but I can still see that I've lost fat and gained muscle, and I've earned some nice definition in my legs that I didn't have before. My back is bothering me less, and it's been more than 4 months since the last time I threw my back out. *Knocks on wood.* I know I'm healthier, more active, and more fit than I was 4 months ago, even though my weight is the same. If I was only keeping track of my progress by the number on the scale, I'd feel like I was at a standstill and a failure, not accomplishing anything, when I've actually made some pretty damn good progress.
I'd by lying if I said I didn't care about the number on the scale, but going into 2014, I'm choosing to focus on the process, and trusting that the rest of the details will fall into place in time. For the first time, I have confidence that I can actually make that happen. I've had a nice 3 week break from my routine, my batteries are recharged, and I'm looking forward to getting back on track full throttle come January 1st. I'm giving myself the next few days to get my groceries in place, and refocus on my healthy eating plan, which for me, means morning protein shakes, tracking my food, counting calories/carbs/fat/protein, eating smaller portions, avoiding sugar, fried food, junk food, simple carbs, and alcohol, and focusing on eating complex carbs, whole grains, lean protein, veggies, and healthy fats. It's what's gotten me this far, and I'm sticking to it. I'm a fan of the South Beach Diet in general for this, and the very restrictive first two weeks of the plan really help me kick the sugar and crap food cravings I always pick up over the holiday season. I'm putting my energy into increasing my endurance while running, and going for distance, rather than speed. I will continue to run 3 days a week, and do non weight bearing cardio the other days to give my feet a rest. I plan to continue to consistently work out 4-5 days a week.
I may or may not ever reach that ever elusive GOAL, whether it's being under 170 lbs, under 30% body fat, or running a 5k, 10k, half marathon or whatever else, but I can, I have, and I will continue to make PROGRESS. I'd hoped to be farther along in my weight loss by now than I am, but my current 239 lbs is a helluva lot healthier than when I started this trip at 284 back in February. I know if I stick to it, in another year, when 2015 comes around, I will be in an even healthier place than I am now.
So, here's to the journey of 2014!