I’m preoccupied with love, specifically how we nurture and take care of ourselves--or don’t. I’ve more than a passing interest in the subject since I notice that my scale sometimes goes up several pounds. Apparently, losing weight is a different skill than maintaining it. Just when I thought I could relax, it’s back to the drawing board.
On the positive side, thanks to exercise, I’m in the best physical condition since I was in high school and my clothes still fit.
Nonetheless, I’m concerned. Soon a walk with friends who, like me, are struggling to get and stay fit, I asked the question, “How do we sabotage ourselves?” We came up with six behaviors we needed to change.
1. Being a perfectionist. One woman confessed that if she fell apart on Thursday, she had to wait till Monday to get back on track. Another reported that she didn’t keep a food diary because she couldn’t do it perfectly.
Strategy: Replace the perfectionist’s creed--“If I can’t do it right, I won’t do it”--with “Progress, not perfection, is the goal.” Imperfection is part of the human condition. Lighten up and laugh, especially at yourself.
2. Going unconscious while eating. Dining out, I watched with fascination as a patron took the next bite of food before she finished chewing the last one. In between, she stabbed a forkful from her spouse’s plate.
Granted, I’m not that bad (although I confess to sampling my husband’s entrée “just to see what it tastes like”) but I’m hardly flawless. If I watch TV while eating, I want seconds because I haven’t experienced eating “firsts.” Several of us can’t eat sugar without triggering a craving for more.
Strategy: Use a new approach. Rather than recage the sugar beast, go without sweets. Record daily food intake, including calories in vitamins and supplements. Stay honest about portions. To enjoy eating, take it slow. Counting to 10 between bites makes it easier to be satisfied with smaller portions.
3. Putting others’ needs first. Houseguests throw me off. Besides cooking special meals (which I also eat), I’m preoccupied with the mechanics of life--getting a load of laundry done, preparing for the next meal--instead of exercising.
Strategy: Remember this advice for flight attendants. When oxygen is needed, first put on your own mask. Then help passengers. Last time I had company, I served breakfast after I finished my workout routine. No one minded. The problem was in my head.
4. Distracting yourself with clutter. It’s difficult to focus with “stuff” around, especially if it’s broken, surplus or disorganized. A clean office and kitchen sink do wonders for my outlook.
Strategy: Stop buying more. Reduce possessions. Keep the remainder repaired, cleaned and organized.
5. Trying to do too much. Of the many sabotage practices, this is my worst. If there’s a place like AA for workaholics, I should attend daily meetings.
A lifelong sense of “time scarcity” triggers anxiety. Realizing that time on earth is finite, I feel an urgency to make hay while the sun shines. How ironic if this pressure triggers a premature demise!
Strategy: Set priorities. Don’t let “priority creep” turn each task into “must do” or, worse, “must do perfectly.” Breathe deeply and stop. See? The world didn’t come to an end! Play more, not less.
6. Making excuses and procrastinating. To expedite communication, assign numbers to excuses. “I didn’t have time to exercise today” is number one. “I overate because the food looked good” is two. Three is “I’ll start tomorrow.”
Strategy: Toss out excuses with oversized clothes. Begin today. Begin now.
George Orwell said, “On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.” Maybe he’s right. Like most people, I don’t want to be good all the time. But if I can’t be good all the time, maybe I could be a little better a little more of the time.