As the wise man Mr T. once said, it’s not where you come from, it’s where you’re going. And I’d be inclined to agree, especially on this whole health business. I don’t think it’s ever too late to make a difference to your lifestyle, regardless of where you’re starting from – and I think aiming high is important… Just so long as you don’t aim too high.
Yep, that’s right. I’m suggesting you aim for okay. Mediocre. Alright. And I’ll tell you why.
I am the absolute queen of a very special form of self-torture known as Unrealistic Goal Setting. Say I’ve got a day off work dedicated to my PhD – I’ll start out expecting to read six books cover to cover, and write 10,000 words. Or, say I’ve got guests for dinner – I’ll expect to be able to whip up a three course gourmet meal in just under an hour, usually whilst consuming the best part of a bottle of wine.
Needless to say, neither of these things ever, ever turn out like I’ve planned – usually the former turns out to be 6 hours on Twitter and a quick flick through a magazine, and the latter a last minute trip to the chip shop – and as a result, for a long time, I was a consistent source of disappointment to myself. And so I’d eat to cheer myself up. And then I’d gain weight, and then be even more annoyed at myself, so have to work even harder, and… You get the idea. It’s bad juju.
There’s one notable exception to my unrealistic goal setting, though, and that’s my weight.
When I first started out, at 290lbs, I didn’t expect to ever see the 160lb mark. I didn’t expect to succeed at all, let alone drop almost half my body weight, fix my own broken knees and end up running a weight loss blog. That stuff wasn’t on the agenda. At that point, I’d have been happy to lose ten pounds, but I had my doubts as to whether that would happen at all.
Maybe it’s because I’d always been a fat girl, so I couldn’t imagine a life where I wasn’t overweight. Or maybe I just didn’t have the confidence in myself to believe that would happen. I certainly didn’t feel like my body was something I could control. The constant knee pain and illness; the gnawing discomfort of wearing a belt or trying to find a bra that fit; the sense of despair on encountering stairs; these were all things that seemed inevitable. I didn’t dwell on them, because they were just a part of life that I thought I’d be dealing with forever – so my expectations on joining the gym were very low indeed.
When I lost the first 5lbs, I was shocked. And so I aimed for 10lbs, reached it, and was stunned. 15lbs came and went, then 20, 25 and 30. I’d need to use every word under “amazed” in the thesaurus to explain how each of these felt.
Bear in mind, even having lost, say, 60lbs, I didn’t expect to get to where I am – but each time I hit a new goal, another one would crop up along the way. Getting to 200lbs was a huge one for me; and 195 was, possibly, even bigger, because it gave me a fairly decent buffer for those everyday fluctuations where I’d still be under 200lbs. Happy days.
I didn’t begin to expect success until I reached about 180lbs, and even then it was because Matt had ironed out the programme by this point so that if I did everything perfectly, I’d be near enough guaranteed to reach all my goals. And that expectation comes with a disclaimer that I’ve had to remind myself of a lot. If I’d been perfect, I’d be at my target weight right now – but instead of being perfect, I’ve been living.
In the last five months, I’ve been to a festival (something I never thought I’d do because I couldn’t sit on the floor for fear of not being able to get back up); I’ve had many, many big nights out (and in) with food and wine aplenty; I’ve had patches where I’ve been resting bad shoulders and knees; and in the last fortnight I’ve eaten such a lot of cake at endless birthday parties that I’m thinking of auditioning for a guest judge spot on Cupcake Wars.
In that time, I’ve also lost almost 40lbs, reduced my body fat percentage by 10%, and gained a whole load of muscle.
Traditional diet logic would say that I’ve failed on multiple occasions – but remember, this is a long term process. Being able to live – and live damn well, if you don’t mind me saying – whilst steadily losing weight, in a healthy, consistent way, has to be the big goal here.
So many of us set ourselves unrealistic goals, usually with unrealistic deadlines attached – especially in the weight loss arena. Expecting to drop ten pounds in a week, for instance, is wholly unrealistic, unless you’re either very, very overweight, or using the dark arts of the diet world to make that happen.
With weight loss, if you aim for good, or okay, or even mediocre, you’re far more likely to achieve a huge success than if you set yourself unrealistic goals. Not only that, but you’re more likely to amaze yourself at every milestone because you made it there whilst living your life to the full.
So just on this one thing, I suggest a revolution in thinking. Don’t aim for a perfect existence. Aim for good life, well lived. If you can eat well, and stick to your workouts most of the time, but give yourself a break now and then, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to be happy, and really, truly well.
And that, my friends, is why it’s okay to just do okay.