Motivation Manicure: A Dieting Story

Motivation Manicure Fingers

Or “How to Persevere with Your Long-Term Health and Dietary Goals When Your Motivation is Beginning to Wane.”  Except that is WAY too long a title, so Moti-Mani it is!

Regular readers and casual dropper-byers alike may remember that I’m now four months into a rather major overhaul of my family’s general health and wellness.  As in we possessed neither of those things, and I was inching dangerously close to a pit that had nothing at the bottom but razor sharp rocks.  Also diabetes, stroke and heart attack, but I thought the pointy rock thing was apt.

So I hitched up my pants (hahahahahahaha, there was no hitching, silly!  I couldn’t even get my pants BUTTONED) and decided to do the only thing I hadn’t yet tried – make a real, concerted effort to save my own bloody life.

Nearly four months in, I’m pleased to report that I’ve shed a little over 40 pounds and four dress sizes.  Better yet, I now sleep through the evening (or at least as long as my cat will allow.)  I don’t get winded walking up a flight of stairs.  I no longer wake feeling like a UFC match took place in my stomach during the night.  My skin is bright and (mostly) clear.  I have lots of energy.  I no longer sweat while eating.  Or breathing.

And while those are all FABULOUS side effects of a healthier approach to diet, exercise and general wellness, remembering to appreciate those seemingly minor gains for the major motivational milestones they actually are is a trap all of us fall into at one time or another.  We have a tendency – in all aspects of life, really – to dismiss the mundane inanities of everyday life in favour of THE BIG SHOW.  We live for those big moments, and that includes the things we feel passionately about, the things that motivate us.

How that tends to manifest itself in the dieter’s mind is a fixation on a major, end-of-diet treat (an expensive vacation, a crossed-off item on the bucket list, a five-star tour of France where you do nothing but eat cheese for 10 straight days, I don’t know your life!)

For me, that major treat is a ludicrously expensive, long and splashy trip to Disney World, one of my favourite places on Earth, and a spot I’ve been avoiding since gaining ALL the weight.  I think about that still-very-nebulous vacation every day as I’m thumping away on the treadmill, imagining that each on-the-spot step is actually me hauling nimble ass towards the Haunted Mansion for the first of the day’s 13 straight rides.  It’s wonderful motivation, an achievable big dream I can almost reach out and touch.  It also sort of has a smell (popcorn, Dole Whip, propane and chlorinated It’s a Small World water, in case you were wondering.)

And that’s what this manicure is, the nail art representation of a beautiful dream that I’m taking much-needed steps towards making a reality every single day (me standing on the Hub grass of the Magic Kingdom waiting for one of the evening’s innumerable fireworks bonanzas as the sun sets in a pastel sky behind Cinderella’s castle, but of course.)

Motivation Manicure Bottle

But plans of dream vacations will only take you so far, as being so far off in the distance themselves, they can begin to feel unattainable – gigantic dreams turned pipe dream. With a long, hard slog ahead and no clear horizon in sight, it’s just far too easy to give up altogether, particularly after suffering a (completely normal and unavoidable) setback.

So I’m choosing instead to also celebrate those little, in-the-middle victories – the increased energy, the improved mood, the sleep-filled nights.  Because it’s good to always keep your eye on the big prize, but it’s also worth checking in every now and then with the smaller successes as well.  They’re the real motivators, and the real reason to continue doing just what I’m doing – because it feels good, and because I feel good. Nothing more complicated than that. 🙂

One Foot in Front of the Other: A Dieting Story

Footsteps 1

So a funny thing happened on my way to turning 40 – I kind of grew up.  Okay, okay, hold your horses – don’t go setting off the air raid sirens just yet; I qualified that with a “kind of.”  It’s not like I saw 40 coming and, as Corinthians would say, put away my childish things.  I did quite literally go out this afternoon and buy a pile of Lego Dimensions video game toys, so that would be a big old no on putting away the playthings.

But as it pertains to issues of weight, specifically my overabundance of it, I saw 40 coming in hard with a bullet (stroke, diabetes, heart attack, take your horrifying pick) and thought it was high time I GET MY SHIT TOGETHER.  For far too many years now my friends and family – people I have caused untold worry and concern – have been trying to gently (and sometimes not so gently) convey the message that if I do not rein in some of my more destructive lifestyle impulses, I won’t have a life to ruin at all.  And for far too many years now, I’ve been shrugging off their concerns, usually with a self-deprecating dig at myself on the way out, like it’s cool to not give a crap about yourself.

Then about three weeks out from my 40th birthday, I went to the doctor and she laid it out bare – all of my measurable vitals were total garbage, and I was dancing with the devil every second I was vertical and ventilating.

Well.

When you put it that way.

But really, when she did put it that way?  I finally sat up and took notice.

Or rather, I took notice a little earlier when my friends began planning a blow-out trip to Vegas, and I realized I’d never, ever be able to keep up with them at the slots, on the dance floor or whilst liberating a tiger from Mike Tyson’s house.  I took notice when I heard a distinctly audible “CRACK!” after sitting in a rickety old chair at a hipster donut joint.  I took notice when my 90-year-old grandmother buried my 60-year-old diabetic aunt, a bright, otherwise remarkably intelligent woman who, much like her niece, never said no to a delicious dish.  I took notice when I thought about my mother and father burying me.  And I finally took notice later on that evening when I looked over at my husband, happily snugged up in his chair, and thought about all the fun and adventures we’d never get to have because I put my love of butter before my love of us.

And that was just a level of selfishness I was unwilling to cross.  The only difference between then and way-back-then was joke time was clearly over, and I was now ready to do something about the fact that I was slowly killing myself.

You, friends, are coming into this piece at the three-month mark.  In that time I’ve significantly overhauled my/our approach to food and exercise, as in I cut way, way back on the former and actually started doing the latter.  My simple, rather hands-off approach to dieting – no fancy gimmicks, just the tortoise-like certainty that it will happen if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other – has so far netted me a loss of 30 pounds and three dress sizes.  I’m elated, but also desperately trying to maintain my chill – there’s nothing sadder than the receiver who does a victory dance two feet off the goal line, football still in hand.  Is that right?  I really don’t know sports.

I wish I could tell you that I accomplished this HELL YEAH, I’M KICKING ALL THE ASS feat via sexier means than increased exercise (or any exercise) and improved dietary choices, but the unvarnished truth is, much like this nail art business, it’s a matter of repetition (or as it’s often called, practice, practice, practice.)  In nail art, you develop your skills by doing challenging manicure after challenging manicure, until one day you’re firing off galaxy nails like you’ve been doing them your entire life.  Successful dieting operates in much the same way – you develop positive dietary and lifestyle habits simply by practicing them every single day.  Then one day you surprise the hell out of yourself by willingly choosing green grapes over potato chips, or breaking out into a run even though there’s absolutely no one chasing after you.  Brave new world.

I’ve been toying with the idea of sharing all of this with you, my dear online friends, for some time now.  What has held me back is my intense desire to not be THAT PERSON. You know THAT PERSON – they “discover” something the rest of the world has been “Well, duh”-ing forever, and promptly turn into a smug know-it-all. Nobody likes THAT PERSON.  THAT PERSON needs to maroon themselves on an island with all the other THAT PEOPLE, where they can lecture themselves silly about the merits of kale chips, acai berries and hot yoga (can you tell my dieting process doesn’t involve a whole lot of zen?  My workout playlist is nothing but angry punk rock and hardcore electronica, and my elliptical style can best be described as spastically aggressive.)

But for anyone who might be inspired by my weight loss journey (AKA “Sandra’s Guide to Not Dyin'”) I’d like to continue to offer up my successes, and inevitably my failures, in the hope that they may motivate you to make some positive changes in your life.

You know, if that’s what you want!  If everything’s hunky dory, keep on keeping on, you do you. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past three months, it’s that in order to be successful at (insert your “thing” here) you have to be the change you seek. In other words, if you’re not truly ready, you’re unlikely to succeed.  The grace comes in knowing when it’s time to put off the inevitable and fully commit, an intensely personal matter of timing that only you can choose.  Sometimes that choice is made for you, in a doctor’s office as you stare down your mortality, or later on at home when contemplating the cozy life you’ve built with your husband, but that moment will come when you decide to make a change.  And when that happens, I’d like to be here to share in YOUR successes, and those inevitable failures, too.  Because there’s safety and accountability in numbers. And without getting all mushy on you, I think we can continue doing this, together, just by putting one foot in front of the other.

Footsteps 2