I went swimsuit shopping yesterday. Such a painful process. When I’m wearing clothes, I feel pretty good about my looks and body shape. I feel like I’m at a point where I select clothes that accentuate the good and downplay the bad. I look pretty good most days. But a bathing suit can’t hide as much as I’d like it to, so I’m forced to face those parts of my body that haven’t aged well, that I haven’t taken care of. Sigh.
Mr. Geeky is always telling me I look good (he’s a smart hubby), and I know he really means it, but this is a part of my life I’ve neglected, and not just recently. I’ve never, not since 8th grade, worked very hard to stay in shape. I was blessed until my early 30s with a good metabolism and good eating habits. I would sometimes binge exercise–after having kids, for example–but never established any kind of routine or fit it into my lifestyle. When things get busy or stressful, I often resort to really bad eating habits: chips and dip, ice cream, bags of candy. I can’t seem to stay on track.
The thing is, I do have a lot going on, and unlike family dinners or blogging, for that matter, health and exercise are at the bottom of my list. The only person I’m accountable to for eating well and moving around some is myself. I’m not in poor enough health to be concerned for my life, and my immediate family could care less if my love handles are bigger than I’d like. In other words, I lack good incentives.
Lately, I’ve come to believe in feedback. I know, duh. A few years ago, I read Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), which is a great read if you like nonfiction. One of the big messages in that is that drivers don’t get enough feedback about how fast they’re going, so they don’t know to slow down. I’ve used a feedback loop to help manage my finances. Basically, I check my accounts every couple of days. While I still have a lot of work to do on the finance front, I have a very good idea of the areas that need work. I need something similar for my health. The standard feedback is pounds lost, of course, but a) I don’t have a scale; and b) it’s not enough of a reward to keep me motivated. I’m a sucker for rewards. I use them to trick myself all the time. When I was a waitress, I would reward myself with a CD purchase if I made more than a certain amount in tips. I was trying to save money at the time for a big purchase, but didn’t want to deprive myself too much. So I calculated how much I needed to make in tips each night to have enough to meet my goal and if I made $10 or so over that, I’d buy a CD. It worked really well. I’d sometimes work an extra hour to make that or take on an extra table.
A while back, I was sort of rewarding/punishing myself by saying I couldn’t buy any new clothes until I lost weight, but again, the slowness of that feedback didn’t really work. I need rewards for short and long term success. Preferably things that don’t cost anything. I read somewhere that one should think of “getting to” exercise rather than “having to” exercise. I don’t think that small adjustment to thinking is going to work for me. I’ve also thought about doing activities I like, but some of the things I like are expensive.
But, I have some ideas. I’m going to try them over the summer and see if they work. Here they are.
1. Vegetarian meals for breakfast and lunch (I actually almost already do this, so I don’t think this will be too hard).
2. Some kind of activity every day at 4:00. – I picked 4:00 because even on work days I’m usually free. If I get in the habit over the summer, maybe I can stick with it during the school year.
3. No sugar. I’m a sucker for sugar, but I don’t usually miss it when I don’t have it. I’m not including alcohol because, hey, it’s summer and I know that’s not going to happen.
And that’s it for now. I’m going to work on the reward part. A bath after my workout? A new piece of clothing after a week? We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted. And if you have ideas, please let me know. The things listed above, I’ve gotten from other places myself. If something’s worked for you, I’d love to hear about it.