Dynamics of Maintaining
When I hit goal in November 2010, I had the benefit of twenty-six months and a day to prepare me for the next phase of the rest of my life: Maintaining my weight loss.
Had my focus been heavy on the food and exercise fundamentals instead of the mental dynamics along the way, this may have been an anxiety filled idea. Would I spend the rest of my life constantly balancing my food intake with exercise in a never ending pursuit of keeping the weight off? The answer is yes and no.
Yes--Because eating and exercise will be two things I do forever.
No--Because I've changed my relationship with food.
The illusion that food somehow makes my troubles and stress easier to handle is gone. The tendency to abuse food like a drug is gone. Does this mean it's some kind of effortless day to day existence?
Not at all.
I'm human. I have cravings. I love the taste of food. The difference now is this: Instead of making food my number one focus and my number one go-to in the face of stress and emotions of every kind, I simply appreciate food and what it does for me. I don't ask food to be something it isn't. Food isn't a therapist. Food doesn't fix anything other than my hunger and nutritional needs. When I stopped putting inappropriate and unrealistic expectations on food, things started dramatically changing inside my head.
Figuring out the boundaries of "normal" portions was an educational process. I always figured my giant 1/2 plate of mashed potatoes loaded with gravy neatly filling up the hole I made in the middle, was perfectly normal. Discovering I was capable of enjoying a third of this in a regular portion was key for me.
I've written about my favorite foods before. These favorites are foods I'm extremely cautious around: Peanut butter, cottage cheese, cheese of any kind and ice cream. I recently threw away a jar of peanut butter from my pantry after a few spoonful trips. Was it bad, these 100-200 calorie spoonful snacks? Nutritional speaking, not at all. Mentally speaking, yes. I know my history with these favorites, so I'm ultra aware of my behaviors around them. And this self-analysis is unique to each of us--and very important to assess, acknowledge, understand and monitor.
As long as I'm treating food the way it should be treated: Eating normal portions at appropriate times, then I don't have regaining issues or anxiety. This isn't to say that my weight doesn't fluctuate to a degree. Sure it does, especially if I'm missing too many workouts. But the comfort is this: If my size 36 jeans start to get a little tight, I'm confident it's from lack of exercise and not because of my behaviors with food.
Separating stress and emotions from our daily behaviors with food is imperative to our success. But how? For me, it was writing. The therapy found in writing out my feelings; dissecting my behaviors and really getting to the bottom of my motivations, has been and continues to be a stringent test of self-honesty. I've recently learned about how every behavior, every action meets some kind of need. What are we really after? I highly recommend writing everyday in an effort to sort out these things. And if you have the luxury of a professional therapist, that's awesome too.
The key to maintaining my weight loss is squarely on my ability to understand my needs in coping with stress and emotions. I must always understand food's role and my role. Food isn't a therapist. Food doesn't fix my issues within. It's my responsibility to work on my issues in handling and understanding stress and emotions in a very direct way. Food cannot and will not be used as an escape from this responsibility ever again.
A normal day for me starts with breakfast. I prepare a protein rich breakfast balanced with some fruit and yogurt most of the time. I love the calorie value of egg whites, I do. My breakfast calories usually run somewhere between 250-350 calories. I pack some good snacks to take with me. I often cut up an apple, grab an extra banana, fill a baggie with baby carrots and take along an extra yogurt. These snacks serve me throughout the day. And as long as I turn to them more often than a handful of salty snacks found in the break room, I'm winning. Dinner can be a challenge sometimes. My goal is to eventually eat only lean meats, fruits and veggies. I'm not there yet. But I do okay. I occasionally eat out--and when I do, I'm always looking for the best calorie value on the menu--as long as it's something I enjoy. I refuse to eat something I don't enjoy simply because it's a great calorie value. I'm at my best when I fire up the grill and I enjoy veggies I never would have consumed before. I can't believe I actually like asparagus and yellow squash. I do! It's an amazing evolution of good choices, because "old" Sean wouldn't ever allow those things to cross his lips. Back then, I was too busy devouring everything else.
I tend to watch my calories to the point of appearing obsessive. I consume somewhere between 1700 and 2200 calories per day. But every now and then, I come up short. It's those days where I have to remind myself to eat more in a very normal and healthy way. Imagine that! This is nuts for me considering my past, but it's a pleasant reality.
The tendency to self-destruct or hold myself back--oh, it's still in there. But it manifests in other areas. I've clearly not achieved a level of physical fitness I would prefer. And my development in relationships and in my business aspirations is often stunted by my tendency to turn around and go back to my comfort zone.
This "comfort" zone is rarely comfortable, but it's very familiar. It's what we've always known. Any change from what we've always known creates anxiety--and anxiety sucks. To avoid this feeling, it's easier to revert back into old habits and behaviors. Even though it's a place we might not like, we do it because it's familiar---we know what to expect. The fear of the unknown is a horrible beast.
The above described process of almost "getting there" and retreating to what's familiar, is exactly the dynamic ending so many attempts to choose change.
Recognizing how we create this "fear," acknowledging and embracing our "iron-clad" decision to change and deciding right here and now that we will not allow any excuse or rationalization to send us backward, is all crucial. And it's all practice. Because as long as we're willing to change and we're willing to be open minded about the dynamics of it all, then we're always learning and most importantly: Growing. In my experiences I've discovered a gradual evolution of good choices. It couldn't be a sudden and unnatural change of everything I had become. I've moved forward because I allowed a confident patience to accompany my journey. Someday I'll be the man who eats clean and runs everyday. Until then, I'm just Sean--the guy who eats reasonably and exercises regularly and maintains a 275 pound weight loss.
Speaking of exercise: I've really increased my efforts lately. This week I've already accomplished two 5K's and a spinning class. My evolution in exercise hasn't been the same as it has in the food department. I have to push myself to give it more. I have to remind myself to throw away the excuses and rationalizations allowing me off the hook. I also understand how important exercise is to my ability to maintain. It's crucial.
My sincere apologies for assuming everyone who reads here also reads my facebook "micro-blogs." I admire your decision to live without facebook. I have a really good friend who recently decided to leave facebook and he's much happier! I guess it all depends on your perspective. I use it as a way to communicate what I've learned and am learning along this road---and what I'm up to in terms of my career.
Your support for me is greatly appreciated and I vow to continue making strides in keeping content up on this blog, regularly.
Below is some recent facebook "micro-blogs." Often, we start some good discussions from these--and really, that's why I like to post them!