Staying on the Wagon April 22, 2015Posted by J. in Genius.
Tags: change, diet, exercise, inspiration, motivation, running
What motivates you?
I was slogging away on the treadmill on Monday. I hate the treadmill with the fire of a thousand suns. You want to learn to hate running, get on a treadmill. But I got my new running shoes (FINALLY!) and it was raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock outside, so I got on the damned machine to get a couple of miles in. I haven’t been running much all winter and it’s time to get those muscles back into shape and all that.
So I’m at the gym, pushing myself through every sucktastic minute, when it gets to be 5:00 and the local stations all go to news. Monday’s lead story across the bank of TV’s overhead was coverage of the Boston Marathon. And I saw people in wheelchairs crossing the finish line, and a runner who’d lost a limb in the bombing two years ago out running, racers hugging and helping each other when they couldn’t stand up anymore. And GOD…this.
LOOK AT HER FACE. She just ran 26 fucking miles and LOOK AT HER SMILE. They showed a clip of her and the men’s winner running together with their hands joined and up in the air and it took my breath away.
Suddenly my legs didn’t feel tired anymore. I cranked up the pace and ran my last half mile as hard as I could without going so fast that I ran the risk of tripping and putting a Jen-shaped hole in the back wall of the gym. It was only two miles and it still mostly sucked, but seeing that kind of dedication and endurance and sheer love of the sport made me want to keep running forever. It was the motivation I needed.
But this isn’t about running, exactly. I had a friend ask me a couple of weeks ago, “What motivated you to stay on track with your diet?” And I had to stop and actually think about it before I answered, because nothing sprang right to mind. The fact that I couldn’t answer her surprised me. I guess I figured there had to be something and I just couldn’t think of it when put on the spot, but it occurred to me that there might not be anything.
Shit. Now what do I tell her?
I don’t tend to look at other people who’ve lost a lot of weight for inspiration or motivation. Lately, that’s had the opposite effect on me. Seeing other people who’ve reached their goal weight and look phenomenal with their tight abs and smooth thighs kind of piss me off and make me not even want to bother. Believe me, this is part of my personality I’m not proud of. It’s the deadly sin of envy, and it’s part of what is eating at me, but that’s another story for another day.
So when I get down to it, I’m not even sure how seeing me lose weight inspires anyone else, to be honest. If I was my fat self and could look into the future at what I am now, I’m not sure I’d be inspired to keep going. Maybe the idea of what I could be kept me going for awhile, but as that image slowly evaporated, it’s no longer a motivating factor.
At the moment, the only thing motivating me to not eat all the things is the fact that I refuse to wear fat pants again. Which is less motivation than it is a deterrent. It’s a powerful one, but hardly inspiring, and you really can’t count it. And it sucks because I know people are looking at me as inspirational and one does want to find the right words when asked about it to help others find that motivation to get started, or keep going.
When it comes to my diet, I don’t have a lot of motivation to stay on it, and that’s the God’s honest truth. Another friend asked me if I’m always perfect with it and I was all OH HELL NO. I fuck up all the time. I make great plans and don’t follow them. I still binge. I still turn to food for comfort more often than I’d like, and there are foods that will always make me weak in the knees. Her response was OH THANK GOD and if it was motivating to hear that you can change your eating habits but all is not lost if you’re not perfect, they yay for me. Because I’m the poster child for Not Perfect by Any Stretch of the Imagination.
It’s a commentary on the state of the diet industry today that when I tell people I lost my weight by eating less and moving more, they look at me like they’ve stumbled across a unicorn. Like I’m one of a rare specimen of human being for whom diet and exercise actually work. Like I’m blessed with abnormal genes that the average human lacks.
I assure them, and you, that I’m not. I am not, at any given time, particularly motivated to stay on my diet. I would like very much to go back to eating the way I used to, even though it makes me feel unwell and makes my weight shoot back up.
So what do I say? What motivates me?
I realized that for me, staying on track is not about finding some carrot to chase to keep going. And it’s not entirely about the fear and loathing of my past keeping me from turning back, either. The truth is, I’m not always on track. I fall off. I have bad days. I have bad weeks…months even. I don’t just fall off the wagon; I jump off and hide in the bushes until it’s out of sight.
I think for me, the problem with chasing that carrot is that eventually, you either catch the carrot and have to keep finding new snacks to chase, or you grow tired of chasing things and not catching them, so you decide to just stop running. It’s where motivation fails me.
The only way I find myself able to hunt down the wagon and climb back on it is by looking at why I fell off in the first place. There’s always a reason that I went off track, let things slide, or just walked away for awhile. And it can be any one of a number of things, really too many to list. But I don’t accept excuses anymore, and I don’t say “I can’t”, either. I can, and when I put my mind to it, I do. There are obstacles that come up all the time, and I have to keep finding out how to get past them.
So when I’m off track, I have to take a hard look at why. Why did I throw up my hands and say “fuck it” this time? Is it something new? Or, as is usually the case, is it a recurring issue that still needs work? I think that dealing with the sometimes painful truth of the answers is the hardest part of losing weight.
I saw this graphic online back when I’d lost maybe 30 or so pounds and it stayed with me because at first it pissed me off. YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.
It’s so very accurate, which is why it pissed me off. And I mentally argued against it, because that’s what I do when I’m outraged. And it’s what I do when I’m faced with uncomfortable truths about myself. It’s easier to make excuses for not doing something than it is to actually grow a pair and, you know do something. I know this now, and I knew it then.
The key to staying on track is not about being motivated to do so, but in being honest with myself. Becoming more self-aware. Know what my strengths are, but knowing my weaknesses, too. I think the reason diets fail for most of us is that people who attempt to diet are given the physical changes to make, but not the mental and emotional tools to accomplish it. There’s a big dose of Self-Awareness that needs to come with The Diet Plan and The Workout Schedule.
On the up side, the nice thing about knowing this information is that everything you need to make the changes in your life that will lead to weight loss is inside you already. And when you’re honest with yourself and learn to let go of all the things that are tethering you to the lifestyle that keeps you fat, the diet and exercise part really falls into place. It’s like if you get your mind in gear, your body comes along for the ride.
The down side is that it takes some work to uncover it, and as I’ve said all along, it’s not a lot of fun. It’s hard work and it’s exhausting, and sometimes painful. And at times, when it’s really rough, those excuses are soooooo attractive. They are so easy.
I think motivation can be fleeting. It’s fickle–there one minute, and gone the next. What’s important is what happens when there’s nothing pushing you forward, or keeping you from turning back. I’ve come to think that it’s a better use of energy to look for the reasons behind falling off the wagon and take steps to correct them than it is to look around for a carrot to keep me in the chase.
I keep getting back on the wagon because I can see that I am becoming who I want to be. It’s something worth working for, and maybe that in itself is my motivation.