Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week #35: Getting Back To Routine

Despite the silly flipchart this week implying that once fall arrives we’ll all be wearing ski suits, the concept of figuring out how to get back on track is a very important one. Assuming you’ll sail along on your journey to goal without any slip-ups is pretty na├»ve. Most everyone “falls off the wagon” at some point. But what separates the Lifetime Members from the rest is the ability to get back on track and continue on the journey.

Meeting topics often work out to be very timely for me, and this is no exception. A few weeks ago I realized that where once I was a very faithful and regular morning exerciser, something at some point had changed. More hours of daylight, an occasional meet-up with running friends in the afternoon, and all of a sudden I was sleeping through my alarm. On days where I ended the day with a bout of exercise that was okay, but more and more I found myself sleeping in…and then doing nothing in the evening either. Once I was tasked with making my ActiveLink lights blink, I knew that had to change! And staring down a budget season at my full-time job, where overtime is often necessary but not known until the last minute, I knew I needed to get back into the habit of getting my exercise done in the morning, when there were sure to be no other conflicts.

One of the tips in this week’s topic was to start with baby steps, and that’s just what I decided I’d do.

Step 1: I at least need to wake up to my alarm!

That’s really the hardest part, isn’t it? I told myself all I needed to do was to get out of bed. That’s it. Even if I don’t exercise, I at least need to get back into the habit of getting out of bed at zero dark thirty.

Step 2: I just need to put my workout clothes on.

Funny enough, once I get out of bed, it’s not so hard to take the next step. But maybe I don’t feel like going out for a run. Well, it doesn’t get me sweaty to put on my workout gear, and strap on the heart rate monitor. Just do that. Something that I found is that I am 100% successful at exercising when I put on my gear. Mentally it seems ridiculous to me to go through the act of changing clothes only to then not use them – especially when I will then have to change clothes AGAIN to go into work. Why go through the hassle of changing two times in the morning if I’m not going to do anything with it?

Step 3: I don’t have to work out hard or for a long period of time, I just need to do something.

So now that I’m awake a little bit and dressed, I’m not dreading exercise as much, but maybe I’m not feeling like running for a whole hour. Okay, well how about a walk? How about running for ten minutes? Just get out the door and DO SOMETHING. Usually, once I’m out there, extending the length of time is easy – I get the momentum going. Or if I’m walking, I realize how much longer it takes me to cover the same distance, and so I start to run. Sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I end the route at a shorter distance than I intended. But at that point, what I’m doing is gravy. A month ago I was sleeping through my alarm. Now I’ve run for 30 minutes! Victory!

So far I’m about two weeks into it. The more I practice the habit, the easier it gets. With practice, it transforms from ZOMG THIS HABIT I’M DOING THAT’S A HUGE CHANGE into Hey, This Is Just What I Do.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Week #34: Your Unhealthiest Habit

In the last several years I have considered myself an active person. I go to the gym, I run outside, I have workout classes that I enjoy. Like probably a lot of you reading this, I have a desk job. Most of my day at work consists of sitting at my computer and working on spreadsheets. Despite this fact, I still considered myself an active person.

The above is my ActiveLink report from yesterday. Wednesdays are my "rest" days. I start the morning (at a time when on other days of the week I'd be working out) at Weight Watchers. Right after I finish the meeting, I go to my full-time job. After work I do yoga. By the time I get home, it's 7pm and I've been away from the house since 5:45am. It's then time for dinner and chores around the house.

I barely met my baseline yesterday, much less my ActiveLink goal! Even the yoga didn't help much, which initially when I started using ActiveLink was concerning. But then I thought about it - the kind of yoga that I'm doing on Wednesdays is very focused on flexibility, focus, and holding poses. It is not what you'd consider "power" yoga. I burn very few calories during a session, and I don't frankly move much - I get into a position and hold it. At any rate, does that daily graph look like an active person to you? Hmm, maybe I need to re-evaluate what I think I am....

And now here's a Sunday from a week or two ago. I started the morning at the gym cycling, then from about 11am-1pm I worked a Weight Watchers meeting. I'm not sure what I did the rest of that day, but while the green bars aren't crazy high, I can tell I wasn't loafing around the rest of the afternoon either. Still, it's clear to me that my primary source of movement in life is through my exercise.

So I've been leafing through this week's Weight Watchers Weekly and picking your brains at the meetings this week to try and figure out how I can move more at work. Since I already do some of the usual things (park farther away in the lot wherever I go, for example) I am working on becoming more "inefficient" in my movements. If a letter needs to get dropped in the mail room, instead of combining it with a trip to the restroom, it now gets its own trip.

It still doesn't add up to much, but I guess the fewer minutes I spend sitting on my duff, the better!

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Instead of writing up my thoughts on last week's topic, I hope you'll indulge in a little self-disclosure.

It's now August 2012. Most of us are wondering where the last eight months have gone, but I'm sitting here wondering where the last fifteen years have gone! Because in August 1997 I reached my weight goal and became a Lifetime Member. FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY, Y'ALL.

I remember sitting in my meeting a few weeks into joining, and the leader celebrated a woman who had reached her eighteenth year as a Lifetime member at goal. Those of you who have been members for years might remember that we used to give out ribbons for ten pounds lost, and embroidered stars for each additional ten pound increment. Then, when you became a Lifetime member, you received a white ribbon. And on every anniversary you received an embroidered shooting star. So here was this woman with her white LT ribbon virtually covered in these shooting stars. She was happy, she looked vital, and if I hadn't known her history, I never would have guessed she ever had a weight problem. I remember thinking "someday I want to be her." Doing the math, I am now 83% of the way there!

If you had asked me back then whether I'd have kept my weight off this long, I'm not sure that I would have said yes. Even now, I wonder if I would have been able to remain at my weight goal if I hadn't immediately started working for Weight Watchers (where my weight is monitored monthly to make sure I remain a good role model).

So what have I learned in the past 15 years?

Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not. While I have remained at or under goal the entire time, my weight has fluctuated almost ten pounds. Some years I have a really good cushion, other years I am right at goal. (In full disclosure, recently I have been in one of those "right at goal" years, something which I am trying to change!) Just like when I was in weight loss mode, sometimes I had it dialed in, other times I got a little lax.

Weight maintenance is a different mind-set than weight loss. In maintenance, you have to learn to not freak out over a 1 pound gain. Your weight never stays exactly the same, so fluctuations up and down are a part of the process. If your behavior is consistent, a gain this week will likely be followed by a loss the next. If it doesn't, check your behavior.

My habits have evolved. The way I lost my weight isn't the way I'm maintaining. I was not a runner when I was losing weight. Fifteen years later I've run five marathons and countless half marathons (the next one is coming up next month!). When I was losing I ate lots of prepared, frozen and canned food, and rarely ever cooked. Today, I'm buying staples in bulk and cooking them myself, loving every step of the way.

My life has evolved, and so my habits have had to keep up. When I hit goal, I was married. I still am, but it's to a different fellow. A lot of things happened in between. I've had four different full-time jobs during the last 15 years, each with their own set of hours, overtime demands, and corporate culture. Currently I'm in a "free food all the bloody time" environment, and trust me, that's a challenge!

What has been constant the whole time is the notion of regular weigh-ins to keep an eye on things. Regular tracking of food intake so I don't relax too much. Sometimes I track more than others, but I do still track. Regular physical activity is a must (although what I do for it has changed many times, and likely will continue to change).

Part of my success in this journey have been people like you. Yes, you, reading this. Whether you are in one of the meetings I lead, maybe you're someone I've weighed, maybe you just found me through Blogger or Facebook - you make the difference to me. Helping you to change your habits and reach your goal gives me a feeling that no other job I've ever had has given me. It inspires me to keep this going, to keep on track, so that I can continue to work with you and see how you shine.

So thank you for reading this. And here's to another fifteen years!