Updated: Aug 18, 2021
After another bit of time off last week, we’re all back at it over here.
Me and my Beethoven Covid hair 😬. Still getting used to dealing with the length.
Analogy warning: one of the biggest challenges of space travel is achieving what is known as “escape velocity”, the speed (40,000 KM/hr, about the speed a weekend goes by 😄) necessary to escape our atmosphere/orbit and enter space. Once you’re out of earth’s atmosphere/orbit, maintaining your speed in space doesn’t take 1/100th of the energy it took to leave.
I love the “escape velocity” analogy because it’s a great way to explain that after a life of trying to find the easiest way to lose weight (and eventually failing to maintain those changes), this time I understood i had to break habits, and that took an intense dedication to consistency. But once those patterns were broken, once I worked for consistency over weight loss, the amount of effort I needed to put in was so much less. And that reduction in effort was one of the things I had never experienced before and made this life feel sustainable for the first time ever.
Some of my attempts to get healthy, I didn’t have the motivation to break orbit. I tried to ease into change. My obsessive personality reduced how successful those attempts were, but that doesn’t mean every attempt to get healthy has to be some massive undertaking with huge sweeping changes. An obesity doctor I really dig on Instagram (Dr Spencer Nadolsky) says “you meet the patient where they are on their journey”. Meaning if all you can do right now in your life is go for walks, then go for walks and be proud of that change. That’s infinitely better than “waiting until September to really get serious”.
But that also means when you’re sick of living unhealthy, and you’re just done with how you feel and how you look and what you think of yourself, don’t waste that intense desire to change on “easing” into anything. In that moment it’s time to harness that motivation and break orbit. So, the little steps are amazing as long as you’re aware that when you feel that big internal fire to change, seize that rare moment and go for it. Hard.
But what if you can’t find or develop that big motivation? It’s kinda easier when you’ve hit rock bottom and that intense drive shows up. What do you do if that never happens?
That’s when I love tightening my focus from big goals down to just that day, that meal, or even that moment. Blocking out how much weight I have to lose, not worrying about how long it will take, not clouding my focus with all the doubt and anxiety of “what if” and just focus on what I can control. When my motivation is weak, one of my common thoughts is “all you need to do is eat a healthy breakfast. That’s it”. No other goal, just a healthy breakfast. When I achieve that, I shift that focus to the next moment. That short range focus is so powerful.
Amazing athletes do this all the time. Separation from the outcome, the only thing that matters is executing the task in front of them. They create this weird contradiction of 100% focus on completing the task in front of them (making the shot, scoring the goal, finishing a training session), without getting nervous or distracted by the fear of outcome. Spend time thinking about how that is applicable to our health journeys. Trying to take away the anxiety of making the scale move and channeling it into making sure you’re completely focused on the single task in front of your face. I take so much comfort from this: a healthy life is just a healthy meal repeated.
So, our motivation for breaking habits and creating consistent healthy ones can be all over the map. That’s ok! If baby steps is all you can manage, then baby steps it is. But when you hit that crescendo of “enough is enough”, don’t squander that moment. See if you can use it to break orbit from the inconsistency so many of us have suffered under, and make the big changes that will allow you ease up on the effort later on. Until one of those carpe diem moments comes along, shrink your focus down (literally) to the task at hand. Block out all the garbage your mind conjures up and just grab a salad, pat yourself on the back for achieving 100% of your goal, then repeat.
This journey we’re on changes from month to month, week to week. Learning how to change with it can make it so much easier than we’ve all made it in the past.