Sunday, February 03, 2013

Motivation

It's In The Jeans

The waist measurement of the smallest pants I can recall wearing is 36.  I'm not entirely sure if I remember how far back I could wear 36's, probably a few years after college.  Eventually these became 36's with "comfort waist", a stretchy area that allows for more room.  Effectively these are probably 37's, but you can tell yourself that you're still wearing 36's.  Then they became 38's, and gradually 38's with comfort waist.  I swore to myself that I would never buy 40's.

I don't exactly hang out in groups with other overweight people, so I don't honestly know how typical I am.  All I know is that there is a long period of time when you look at yourself in the mirror and think "Holy crap, what a fat ass you are," but then you don't do much about it.  Or I least I didn't.  Maybe once in a while I'd drink diet instead of regular.  Once every week or two, maybe get outside to do some kind of physical activity, convincing myself I was getting exercise.  I'd step on the scale every now and then, see a number that seemed familiar, and assure myself that my weight was stable.  But pants don't lie.  They eventually need to be replaced, and when the previous size doesn't fit comfortably, well, you can fool yourself into thinking that this will motivate you to lose weight (it won't) or you can just buy the next size up.

About two months before acquiring my treadmill desk, I broke my promise with myself: I bought size 40 pants, although not comfort waist.  This was a major factor in deciding to move forward with the treadmill purchase.  Something needed to be done.  When you hear stories of people who have lost weight, there is typically a moment where the person says "enough!" and finally - finally, for serious this time - gets down to business losing weight.  Buying size 40 pants was my moment.

I bought the treadmill in January, so the early part of winter.  By the time warmer weather came around and I didn't really need pants for a while, I could remove my belt, let go of the waistline, and they would fall to my ankles without unbuttoning.  In just a few short months, those large pants had gone from a necessity, to being unwearable without a belt.  Speaking of the belt, there is a well-molded area in the leather tongue around the notch that I've used for years and years (it's a stretchy belt, and a given notch covers a pretty wide range).  That same belt was being pulled 2 notches tighter just to keep my pants on.

This is good news of course, as it clearly demonstrated that I was losing weight.  The bad news was that when cooler weather returned, I would again have to buy pants; but at least they'd be smaller this time.  And that's exactly what I did a couple months ago: acquired new size 38 pants, comfort waist not required.  Today that belt is now on its 3rd-tighter notch, and I'm out of notches so I'm going to have to buy a new belt soon.  Those 38 pants don't fall to the floor without the belt, but I can remove them without too much trouble - without unbuttoning.  So here we go again, brand new pants that I (hopefully) will not get much use out of because I've moved to a smaller size.  I do have a pair of size 37 pants (wishful-thinking from a long time ago) that fit quite well.  My goal now is to buy size 36 - or smaller - pants for next winter.

I Might Be A Wuss

I've previously mentioned the issues that I've had with foot pain.  A couple of doctor visits, variety of shoe inserts, etc.  Every once in a while, I'll take a few days off from the treadmill to give my feet time to recover.  I've never been to a point of "Ok, this treadmill just isn't worth this pain, I'm done", but there are plenty of times when my willingness to persevere runs thin.  Maybe my weight had plateaued, or even increased, and what I should have done was increase my speed and increase my distance.  What I actually did was reduce speed, reduce distance, and in some cases spend some days away from the treadmill.  My weight gradually increased last October, and my motivation was really suffering.  I was dialing back on my walking in part because of my feet.

But let's be clear: I'm not in agony.  I'm sure anyone who spends all day on their feet can relate.  Your feet are tired and sore.  You'd rather they didn't feel that way.  Hey, that chair looks awfully comfy.  But you go back and do your job the next day, and the next day, and so on.  Distance runners probably get the same thing, but they keep running.  While you may continue on, and I have, you're never not aware of your feet complaining.  You just soldier on anyway.

A couple of events helped me to get my mojo back.  First of all, there is Purdue's quarterback, Robert Marve.  Marve has torn his ACL at least 3 times, and completed most of this season without getting the most recent injury repaired.  He gutted through, and you might expect someone in that situation to be strictly a passing quarterback.  Hobble on the field, chuck the ball around, hobble back off the field.  But oh no, that's not Marve.  Towards the end of the season, with the team in scoring position, Marve threw an interception, and the defender took off for what appeared to be a certain touchdown.  But Marve - busted ACL Marve - chose a good intersecting route, and chased the defender down over about 70 yards - SEVENTY YARDS - to prevent the touchdown.  No one else came close to making the play.

I can walk on a damn treadmill.

Around this same time, I was shown a video describing an injured military veteran who couldn't even walk.  Because he couldn't walk, he couldn't really exercise, and he was quite overweight.  Over the course of the video, he was introduced to a yoga instructor - I believe a former pro wrestler - who was determined to help this man.  And help he did.  The video shows how the veteran struggled to do everything, but persevered and gradually things got better, and weight came off, and mobility returned.  If I remember correctly, he was jogging by the end of the video.  Pretty impressive for someone who couldn't walk before.

I can walk on a damn treadmill.

These events help to readjust my perseverance meter, and I set out with renewed purpose.  I increased speed, and I increased distance.  And before too much longer, the weight again started to fall.  I'm still well aware of my complaining feet, but I muscle through.  I wish I could do that without the foot pain, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards.  But my issues are quite small compared to what others have gone through, and both the current results and future goals are worth it.

Healthy Competition

Early on, I decided to be fairly public about my results.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I post numbers on a (roughly) monthly basis.  I also post weekly updates on Fridays in a couple of places.  Although I'm not sure if anyone I know would actually do this, it seemed like a good opportunity for someone to say "Well hey Brian, you only walked for 2 hours last week, try harder!"  Whether the numbers are up or down, I post them, and try to offer an explanation if there is a trend.  I'm ok with the scrutiny; if I don't like what the numbers say, then that motivates me to improve them for the next week.  It also encourages me to be better at dinner on Thursday night.  It has happened on more than one occasion where I show a lot of improvement over a week, then eat a big dinner on Thursday, which ruins the numbers I post on Friday.  So maybe I'll eat smaller portions, or skip dessert, on Thursdays.

This practice has resulted in some discipline, but nothing gets the juices going like a friendly competition.  Shortly after I got the treadmill, a friend of mine decided to start training to run her first marathon.  She challenged her friends to log 2 marathon's worth of distance by any means - walking, running, whatever - by the time she ran the marathon.  I do that kind of distance in a little over a week, so I figured I was a shoe-in to win, but turned out I finished second to another distance runner.  All told about a dozen of us completed the challenge, and it sure helped me to walk an extra hour or so each day in order to put in more distance.  This challenge also introduced me to dailymile.com which I have used ever since to log distances on and off the treadmill.

Along the way, one of the discussion boards I frequent started holding weight loss contests.  We do them in 8-week blocks, and I've participated in four of them so far.  In order to keep everybody honest, we are required to take a picture of the reading on the scale, and post it on Mondays.  I've never won this contest, but I'm usually competitive, and I have lost weight each time I've participated.  But that Monday weigh-in is a killer.  On weekends, my walking rate is way down.  I get some walking in, but hey, it's the weekend.  And we tend to eat out more on the weekends than we do during the rest of the week.  So less calories being burned, more calories being consumed.  Bad combination.  So the same motivational forces that apply to my reporting of numbers on Fridays equally apply to posting a picture of my scale on Mondays.  It helps to keep from splurging too much on the weekends (as I type this on Superbowl Sunday, shortly before heading to a party…).  There are also some pretty inspirational stories of success amongst the group.

I recently acquired a Fitbit because I wanted to track more data.  The treadmill keeps track of a lot of data, but only while I'm on the treadmill.  I go up and  down stairs a few times a day, that doesn't get counted.  If I go walking around outside, I have an app on my phone that keeps track of distance, but doesn't count steps.  And I sometimes forget to use it.  And it doesn't work indoors, say if I was walking around a mall.  So I wanted more.  There are several products in this genre that likely would do the job, and I can't say I did a tremendous amount of comparison, but so far I'm really liking the Fitbit.

Their web site is quite extensive.  You can track food intake, activities, sleep, all kinds of things.  You earn badges for various milestones, such as climbing 10 flights of stairs in a day, or for every 5000 steps walked.  So that's a nice little individual motivator, to try to earn bigger and better badges each day.  But it wasn't until another developer on a treadmill desk put out a call for Fitbit friends that I truly discovered the power of the Fitbit.  Once you have friends, now it is a competition.  There's a nice ranking on your dashboard showing how many steps you and your friends have over the last week. And I wasn't winning!  So that drives me to walk a little farther, walk a little faster.  And unlike the weight contests, this doesn't have a finish line, so it should help to keep me honest all of the time, avoiding the slacking period that often happens between contests.

Keep Moving

Whatever your reasons are, I find that it helps to have multiple sources of motivation.  Setting goals is good, but there is an art form to setting goals.  When I got the treadmill, I could easily have said "I want to be under 200 pounds!".  But I had no reason to believe that was a realistic target at the time, and truthfully I still don't, although it does look more likely now.  "I want to lose 40 pounds this month!"  Well, while that might be technically possible, it probably wouldn't be healthy to do so.  So the goal needs to be reasonable, and it needs to be achievable.  If you don't hit your goal, that can be quite discouraging.  Maybe add interim goals - lose 1 pound a week - so you can have small milestones on the way to the big target.

But chances are, whatever you are doing will get boring, and therefore will be that much harder to stick with.  Try to find other sources of inspiration and motivation.  Mix things up.  Maybe this month try to get a certain number of hours, next month a certain number of steps, etc.  Challenge your friends, challenge your coworkers, challenge total strangers, and have them challenge you.  Being independently motivated is great, but at least in my case, if I was really that self-motivated, I wouldn't have been overweight in the first place.  The more sources of motivation you can find, the more likely you are to stay on course and achieve your goals.

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1 comment:

Jordan said...

I think you are being too hard on yourself in regards to the foot pain. I find that when I am writing code and need to concentrate, ANY annoyance or distraction is unacceptable. For me, its usually my back, but a few muscle relaxers and "postureNow" gets me through the day.

Kudos and keep posting! Many diets and exercise regimes work for weeks or even months, but fail long term. I think the key advantage to the walking desk is its staying power.