We’re a few weeks into 2014, and if you’re slacking off your New Year’s Resolutions, I feel your pain. I also salute you! If you’ve taken a few steps back, then right now is the perfect moment for a giant leap forward. There’s power in the pitfalls. The conflict between wanting to change and running out of steam creates just enough friction to grind down that surface layer of “get-er-done” and hit bedrock where the real work happens. How so? First, let me tell you a story.
At one time, I considered scales pure evil. I hated that evil needle hovering in mid-air, so silent but so telling. I wanted to round up every scale on the planet, recycle the parts, and purge my urge to weigh. I even had an idea – which I still think would fly – called “Scales for Shoes.” If I could’ve gotten shoe companies to donate sneakers, I would have set up a community drop day where folks could bring their scales to slaughter and trade them in for a pair of walking shoes. I had visions of pulling up a moving truck, chucking old scales into a metal heap, handing out bright boxes of shoes, and smiling as I said, “Have a great walk!” Not only would have my insides become all toasty with positive community energy, I would be undercutting the power of the scale on our collective psyche. To me, it was a win-win. (Shout it out: if anyone wants to organize such a project – go for it! I’d love to hear how it goes.)
Today, I’m more tempered toward the scale. I recognize that, at times, an objective number can help decide the next best step. Also, scales offer immediate feedback which is easy to understand, and I like easy – especially when it comes to losing weight. However, that convenience comes at a cost. When the number doesn’t move as fast as I want – or doesn’t shift at all – I run into trouble. As easy as it is to get up on that scale, it’s even easier to just give up. Plus, there’s a very tragic and very real possibility that my body could be improving at the exact moment I think I’ve failed. Because a scale can only decipher weight, it cannot see the transformation inside. It’s blind to fat becoming muscle. It’s ignorant of calcium bolstering bones. It cannot feel the lubing of joints, the relaxing of vessels, or the slightly easier pump with each flex of the heart. The scale understands none of this. Yet, all of this amounts to so much more than three digits on a screen.
To see the whole picture, I need different feedback – better feedback – which encompasses my body’s entire story. Today, I weigh myself as little as possible. I’ve learned that reliance on the scale can take me only so far. To rev up, get unstuck, and take that giant leap forward to where I’m headed next, I’m going to need new types of feedback. So, I started asking myself, Is there a different way to measure results which is just as easy to gather and just as simple to compare, but that tells the whole story? Yes, there is. In fact, there’s two, and you may already have one of them.
The Box Under the Bed
Or the clothes in the closet, or the jeans in the bottom drawer. Wherever you’ve decided to stash your “skinny” clothes, I bet you’ve got a collection. Isn’t it funny how clothes have an emotional energy to them? As I write this, I’ve stored a gray, Tencel wrap-skirt in the tub under my bed. This piece calls me back to a spring day when I met my future husband in a park. I can describe the periwinkle shirt I wore, the purple sandals I kicked off my feet, and the prickly feel of green grass between my toes as we picnicked and flirted. I felt young and pretty, so that skirt says to me, You’re young and pretty. It has become more than clothing. What powerful motivation these clothes contain!
Clothes can serve as reliable feedback, thanks to easy comparison. Either they’re tighter or looser. Plus, because there’s so many touch points (the waistband in a skirt, the tush of a pair of jeans, the sleeves of a shirt), we can get encouraging feedback even when our stomach shrinks but our thighs still reign supreme. I like this flexible feedback.
Of course, seeing the differences takes longer, maybe months instead of weeks. So, I’ve taken to adding other accessories to spot body changes. Rings or sock bands are handy for tracking areas where we tend to lean out first. Necklaces and bracelets are another option. I like swimsuits, as well, for gauging upper body girth (aka: back fat.) Perhaps the biggest positive, however, is finally fitting into that one, special piece, or shopping for smaller clothes. As I cruise through racks I once shunned, I walk taller with a deep sense of self-trust. I can be healthier. I am healthier, and my clothes show it.
Let’s say you want quicker feedback, though; frequent results without sacrificing the easy comparison. I wanted that too, so I styled an updated version of the traditional weekend weigh-in. I tweaked it to “way-in” because this feedback recognizes the fundamental truth (for each of us) that my best self is already inside, just waiting to rise to the surface. Essentially, Weekend Way-Ins are celebrations of tiny victories which remind me of my best self. They focus on subtle improvements in what my body can do, how far it can go, or even how much better something feels.
For example, I can now do a quad stretch in the pool without holding onto the side bar. Yeah! The other day, I went sledding and – for the first time in years – my thighs fit between the slats on top of the runner sled. No more bruises! When I last cleaned the fridge, I didn’t break out in a drenching sweat. Can I get a whoop-whoop? What’s even more exciting? I experienced all this while the scale hardly moved (see graph below, weeks 22 – 31).
Weekend Way-Ins have become a fun, stress-free way to track my progress and realize the practical benefits of my efforts to get healthy. In fact, when I first played with this feedback, I realized how motivating celebrations can be. Suddenly, improvement didn’t require giving up what I love but only encouraged me to keep becoming who I loved. I took to this practice so quickly that I began to find ways to divvy up my progress into tinier and tinier bits. More victories meant more celebrations!
In order to stay on a healthy path for a lifetime, I need to keep finding fresh feedback. That’s why I say my progress is like one step forward, two steps back, then one giant leap forward. When I have the right tools, then all of those sticky places which hold me back suddenly lose their grip. Now I’m able to make real progress, and a lot sooner than I’d expected. Throughout my 100 Pounds journey, I’ve learned that getting healthy is not always an “onward and upward” deal like we want it to be. It’s more like a relay race, and I’m the baton, riding the momentum of one, helpful tool to the next. I hope these alternative methods for feedback prove helpful tools for you, too.
There’s power in the pitfalls. I’ve come to appreciate whenever I get into that melancholy mix of disappointment and frustration. The conflict between wanting to change and running out of steam creates just enough friction to grind down that surface layer of “get-er-done” and hit bedrock where the real work happens.