Sunday, September 23, 2007


One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is readiness. I look back on successful attempts to change anything in my life, and it seems as if there’s some hard-to-define but important attitude shift that makes it possible to at least get started and endure the preliminary discomfort of making sacrifices and adopting new habits. And there are so many more unsuccessful attempts, where that attitude shift wasn’t there, and I spun my wheels for a while and then just gave up.

Take now, for example. I’ve been pretty focused lately on getting myself to the gym as many nights a week as I can. Something in me just clicked and allowed me to march myself into the gym, pay the signup fee, buy the clothes and the bag and the water bottle and the iPod and risk looking like a big, chubby, uncoordinated dimwit 3-5 nights a week as I attempt to work out. Something has made that possible.

And, just as interestingly, right now I seem to lack the indefinable something that I would need in order to get my eating into a principled and controlled place. I haven’t been at all careful about what I eat, and while it’s certainly not as bad as it’s been at times in the past, I’m aware of eating less well and healthily than would be ideal.

So what is it? I think after a time it becomes momentum, where the changes take on their own weight, and the change barrels down the hill on its own. At least for me that seems to be the case—whether it’s weight loss or exercise or some other life-change, I can feel the different behaviors become habits after a time. But what about the very earliest stages of change, where you not only decide you want something to be different, but you actually act on that desire and see it through until the momentum can take over? That’s the part that feels like kind of a mystery to me.

In my Great Weight Loss Experience of 2000, I remember approaching the whole thing like a time-limited experiment. I chose to use the Atkins approach, and I remember thinking that I’d give it a couple of weeks, eat according to their crazy plan and see what happened in my body. And then I could stop if I felt like it. Two things happenend: 1. I lost 12 lbs. 2. I felt good. At that point, both of those things gave me the motivation that I needed to continue. But I don’t for the life of me remember what gave me the gumption, the courage, the motivation, the whatever, to make all those changes before I knew what was going to happen.

So what’s the difference between then and now? I could embrace a particular kind of eating back then, but now I just can’t be bothered. And yet I seem able to make another kind of change in my life by exercising regularly. I’d hate to think that I have some finite amount of change-readiness in my psyche, and I can only take on one thing at a time. Or, worse yet, that I am only able to choose one healthy lifestyle behavior at a time. All I know is that there’s some kind of a click, and sometimes I get there and sometimes I don’t.

Oh, and I weighed myself this morning, and my digital scale told me I weighed 4 lbs. Either it’s time to buy a new scale, or this gym thing is REALLY working for me.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


So, I’m back. I’m not sure what this extended absence was about, exactly…other than just feeling distracted and focused on other things in my life. It’s funny, though—while I didn’t feel like keeping up with my own blog, I was still motivated to keep up with all of you whose blogs I read regularly. I continued to stop by and read what was going on for you, though I didn’t comment much. I guess I needed a little vacation from writing.

I missed you all while I wasn’t writing. It makes me realize that I have a nice little group of friends here in the world of self-improvement blogging, and that my own active involvement helps me stay connected to people I’ve really come to like and feel close to (you all know who you are *smile and wave*).

So what have I been up to? Getting used to my new job, mostly. I’m very lucky to be working exactly where I wanted to be, though the position itself is not what I would’ve designed for myself. It makes me realized that I had gotten very comfortable with the types of people I used to see for psychotherapy, and those folks exercised skills in me that were already strong. This new group? Wow. It’s a whole different ballgame, and I’m working muscles that haven’t gotten much of a workout before. These are younger guys, mostly, and all newly returned from combat in Iraq. They’re not sure that they want therapy, or what it might do for them, and they’re still pretty sure they’re going to be able to cope on their own. Yet many of them are pretty miserable, and things in their lives aren’t going well. The guys I used to work with, in the residential rehab facility? They were pretty sure that they weren’t managing on their own all that well, and they were mostly willing to accept help. So, it’s new, and it’s weird, and it’s got me in that place of discomfort we all feel before we start to grow and stretch and ultimately become better at what we do.

I see that I’ve been using lots of physical metaphors here. That makes sense, I guess, because the other new horizon I’ve continued to explore has been getting fit. I think one of my last entries here was about joining a gym, and much to my own surprise, I’ve continued to go on a pretty regular basis. I’ve been managing to get there 3-4 times per week, and I’m starting to miss it on days that I don’t go. I’ve gotten into a routine that makes me puff and sweat some but is also kind of meditative somehow, and I like it. I’ve been using this elliptical-like machine, and I’ve been increasing both resistance and length of time I’m on it…I’m so ridiculously out of shape in terms of cardiopulmonary stamina that it’s taken me a while to be able to work hard enough to make my muscles burn, but I’m finally getting there. I do a half hour on the elliptical, and then I go walk a mile on the treadmill to cool down, which usually takes me about 20 mins. I’m still way, way too shy to hire a personal trainer; one of them just sort of randomly made eye contact with me yesterday, and I about ran and hid. Well, one day…when I’m feeling braver. I need some help with beginning a weight training program, so when I’m ready for that I’ll have to hire an expert.

Interestingly, in all of this, my eating has become completely out of my control once again. I’ve hardly tried to rein it in, but it’s getting to be time. I’ve got a comforting little exercise routine, and while my job continues to be stressful, eating everything that I can get my hands on doesn’t actually help. You’d think, after all these years, I would not have to prove that to myself again and again. But some lessons seem to take a while to sink in.

So, there you have it. Thank you all for allowing me to stay connected to your lives, and welcome back to mine.