Monday, November 12, 2007


A problem you can do something about

First, a prefatory comment, to what I hope will be a long series of posts on the maintenance game, particularly the mental/motivational angle:
I am no expert on anything directly relevant, such as psychology or nutrition. I am a mediocre sucess story myself. I have lost about 50 lbs, and more or less maintained most (at the moment 2/3) of that loss for 3 years. So what do I hope to bring to this subject? I answer in two ways. First, my main motivation for writing is to keep myself focused, so it doesn't really matter if I have anything original to say. Secondly (should others read this), I hope that by keeping the light of common sense and reason on the issue, but also maintaining an appreciation for the non-rational human experience, I might provide a balanced view that would be helpful for others on the same mission. A little bit of common-sense pep talk, mixed with a little bit of existentialism.

Today's topic is a pep talk of sorts.

There are many things in life that give us trouble, and for which there is little we can do to improve the situation. If you car is reaching the end of its useful life, you can do little things here and there to keep it going, but it's never going to fully recover. If you get back into the good habit of changing your oil every 3000 miles, it may delay the end, but it won't make your engine stop burning oil. Likewise, if the paint on your house is faded and peeling, its only going to get worse. Of course you can eventually buy a new car or repaint the house, but the current car and the current paint job are past hope.

If you're dealing with an overweight body, then, in comparison to the situations described above, you have a reason to be hopeful. You can do something to fix this situation. The means to improve the situation, better eating and more exercise, are available to everyone. Even better, if you do your part, your body will do a lot of healing on its own. A body damaged by poor habits is not a lost cause, which is good, because you can't buy a replacement.

Of course I'm oversimplifying. There's a huge difference between knowing what you need to do to lose weight, and actually having the willpower to do it. But I believe that attitude shifts can strengthen the will, and this kind of thinking can do a lot to improve your attitude.

Consider this thought experiment: Imagine being ill, and having no access to what will cure you. Then one day, whatever barrier was there has been removed. Wouldn't you rush to obtain that cure, even if it came at a high cost? We who are heavier than we'd like to be are to some sense ill, but the cure is there. We just need make taking that cure a priority.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


A year after the marathon

I have been meaning for some time to provide an update. Not that anyone reads this (if the Site Meter is to be believed) but just because it will make me feel a little better to assess where I am now. I'm also contemplating reviving this blog and focusing on the weight maintenance side of things.

On the one hand, I feel like I'm a far cry from where I was last year at marathon time. On the other hand, I think I've done pretty well considering three major events, two very good and one not so good, that have happened since the marathon. The two good things are the new baby in February, and the new job back last November. The baby has obviously cut into my sleep supply, which makes it harder to get up early enough for long pre-work runs.

The new job came with a longer, more stressful commute and a busier workload. With the baby and the longer drive time I usually get here early enough for a 3 mile run at most. However, one very good thing about the job is that there is a strong fitness culture here, and there is a gym and locker room on the premises.

But the just plain bad thing (not too bad as health problems go) is that I came down with plantar facitis last January. This is a kind of foot pain that takes a long time to heal. I tried light running on and off in the early spring, but it was not getting better. I saw a doctor and he told me not to run for at least two months. That really broke whatever momentum I had built up from last year.

Well, to make a long story short, I worked out on the elliptical machine as much as I could stand, and then gradually started running again. I have done as much as 4.5 miles, but I still feel a ghost of a hint of the plantar facitis, so I'm being very conservative. I ran the CVS Downtown Providence 5K in September, and finished under 24 minutes, which pleased me very much. On average, I do about 5-10 miles a week.

So I am encouraged that my foot is getting better, and that I am still very motivated to keep running. Honestly, the only thing keeping me from doing more running at this point is lack of time (or sleep, the two being interchangable these days).

What is somewhat discouraging is that my eating habits are not so great. I've put on maybe 10 or 15 lbs since the marathon. That's not awful, given how much I have cut back on exercise. I still wear the same pants and have not conceded a belt hole yet. But, I really feel like I have to reverse the trend now or else. This is a tough time because the weather and the holiday busy-ness are really going to cut into workout time, and of course the holiday food will be plentiful.

But I look at this from another perspective and see it as encouraging. If, given my poor discipline with eating, I've not outgrown my clothes, and been able to keep fit enough to run 4 miles, then, if I just toe the line a little better I should be able to reverse the weight gain. In other words, if I were living on skim milk and lettuce and still gaining, that would be discouraging. But what I am seeing now is that the equation (weight change = calories in - calories spent)is working perfectly fine. So the solution is clear, and doable. I have all the ingredients ready.

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