Susan and I talk a lot about changing behavior and motivation. Despite my training in psychology, motivation is something I understand very poorly. I can spout a lot of academic jargon and quote theories, but in terms of actual, practical application, I got nothin’. I have no idea how to motivate someone else to do something, particularly somethings that I just DO because they need doing. I happen to be good at that. At least when it comes to most stuff (the calorie budget tends to be my failing). Most folks tend NOT to be good at the whole Nike attitude of Just Do It.
She’s made a massive lifestyle change over the last few years, dropping nearly 40 pounds and getting healthier than she’s been in years. And she did it by making small changes. Not ordering french fries. Having smaller portions. Stopping with the emotional eating, among other things. She has very much changed the way she thought about food. I’m really impressed by the changes she’s made, and I’ve tried to incorporate some of them in my own life, with less success (portion size continues to be an issue for me).
On the flipside, I’ve made a lot of my own changes, not so much on the food side of things but on the exercise side. Over the last five years, I have made a concerted effort to become an active person. This started s a challenge. I didn’t like exercise. And I have a serious issue with sweat–that it’s gross and smelly… I was not raised that exercise is or should be an important part of normal life. It was a chore. I started by using the crap out of my Wii Fit Plus game. I added in other games. Got back to weight lifting. Walking. Yoga. Stationary biking. Until I worked my way up to 60-90 minutes of exercise a day, split between several workouts. I found exercise I LIKED. I surrounded myself with fans. And I stuck with it. I’ve dropped some weight and done a bit of the yo yo thing, but my steady weight is 10 pounds less than it was when I started. And I am physically FIT. I’m healthy. When the zombies come, I’m going to outrun a lot of people. Which is the thing that has come to matter to me. And that’s been my big mental shift. It’s not about being skinny, it’s about being fit and healthy. And able to run faster than the other guy.
Perhaps the biggest mental change I’ve made in regards to running. Running was, for most of my life, a great big “I can’t”. It’s too hard. It’s bad on my knees (due to an old injury). It’s too hot. It doesn’t burn enough calories for the effort. It sucks.
I can’t say that I know how or why this attitude changed. I tried it on a whim when I visited one of my BFFs and we were at her gym. It didn’t kill my knee. It was something different. When I started it, it was dead of winter, so being too hot wasn’t an issue. I finally got GOOD SHOES and inserts, and lo and behold, my knees aren’t bothered a bit, even the old injured one. And I finally learned that it’s not 100% about the straight number of calories burned. Running is hard. It challenges my body in ways that the other things I was doing really don’t. And I get something out of it. Something that I really can’t define, but something that’s motivating enough that I’m still running, even though it’s JULY and a frigging steam bath, even at 6 AM.
So much of what we do or don’t do is purely in our heads. If you can make those mental switches, then suddenly the things that we find hard to do become easier. The key is making that switch, and sadly, I don’t know the answer to how to do that. But this is what I’ve been thinking about lately.