Monday, February 14, 2011

I would do Anything....

“I would do Anything to lose X pounds.”

I hear this a lot around the gym especially after the new year and lately I have been ruminating on it.  It might be in part because I have further tightened up my eating and meal planning the last few weeks in preparation for making a desired weight class at an upcoming bench press competition.

The problem comes with the ambiguity of the word Anything.

Anything in the quest for weight loss, means to most people, I’ll eat a little less, maybe not eat out so much, and pass on some desserts.  Anything means I’ll be aware of my need to change my eating habits, but here’s the list of 200 things I can’t possibly do because that would just be unreasonable!  Anything can’t include things that risk discomfort, or worse….a little hunger. Anything had better allow for indulgences when and where I want them.

And what results from that definition of “anything?” 
Or worse, a growing sense of failure.

To be successful, Anything has to mean accepting change, forgoing short-term gratification for long-term goals, increasing discipline/maturity, and going against the grain. Anything very likely will mean some temporary discomfort and inconvenience until new patterns and tastes are established.

Two years ago I pledged to do Anything to lose about 15 lbs (see the start of the story here). I surpassed that goal and have continued to add muscle and increase lean body mass.  I’m not professing to be perfect and have this nailed, but over time I have substantially changed the way I eat and live and I continue to eat in a structured and healthy way. So what does Anything involve for me?

Anything to me means that my coworkers invite me to lunch to be polite but they know I will virtually never join in.  Anything is letting go of cultural norms and eating a meal with filling and fibrous green veggies at 9 am. Anything is managing my time better so I can commit time to meal planning and preparation.  Anything means stripping back food to the basics and letting go of the notion that every meal should be a complex sugary/fat sumptuous out-of-body experience. Anything is being patient to retrain my body to crave healthy foods.  Anything is drawing a line in the sand and choosing not to partake in the doughnuts, cookies, candies, and cakes that seem to be perpetually available at work.

An important misconception compounding the Anything problem is the notion that eating to support weight loss/maintenance goals is all about sacrifice and deprivation.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Over time I have discovered joy in meal planning and preparation. I spend time in the kitchen with the kids and enjoy working with my hands.  It’s far more rewarding than sitting in front of the computer or TV. My tastes have changed too.  When I am eating my simple chicken and avocado wrap or cottage cheese with almonds and oranges, there is nothing else I’d rather have.  Others notice too and comment on how delicious these simple, colorful meals look.  I feel healthier, have more energy, and take pride in making deliberate choices in my foods rather than reacting spontaneously with impulsive choices. By not eating out, I save time and money, and am more productive with my limited work hours.

When I decided to go back to finish a PhD in 2004 with two small kids at home,  I knew I would have to do Anything to make consistent progress to finish (and I did in 2007).  What I remember most was EVERY home football game, I'd pull into the commuter lot early in the morning, walk amongst the tailgaters and revelers, go into my building, and up to my office and put in a full day of work. (Now it's more likely I am enjoying a long run through the tailgaters...even better!)

So if you are struggling with a weight-loss or training or professional goal, are you truly prepared to do Anything to achieve your goals? What is your personal definition of Anything and how far are you willing to go out of your comfort zone and habits?  What are you willing to sacrifice and are you ready to reap the rewards of success?