Preparing Room for Gratitude

There are so many things in this life to be grateful for and maybe, for you, it might be… health, stability, or family and friends. It might be smaller than that at any given moment… a sunny day after days of dreary clouds or a favorite song that happens along right when you needed that boost of energy. Think for a moment, what are you grateful for right now? Name it and allow yourself to acknowledge the comfort and well-being it brings you.

I write today with a grateful heart because I am part of a caring, and wise weight loss community. If you read my blog then you know that gratitude is a recurrent theme in my writing. For kicks, I went back in time (a blog is sort of like time travel) and I found my first post about gratitude. It was September 13, 2017. Back when I was numbering the days of the journey it was Day Eleven. I was eleven days into the weight loss journey that would eventually lead to my reaching, “Goal” and later, “Lifetime” status. I am inviting you to make some room for gratitude. Clear out the negative thoughts in your mind, and prepare a space for it that you can go to whenever you need.

Think of it like getting ready for the best kind of guest. The one who makes you remember who you really are, the one who reminds you of all the amazing things you’ve been able to accomplish. Gratitude will teach you all the ways you are extraordinarily blessed. Come with me, let’s do this journey together. We can do it and feel good about it along the way.

Who are you?

I am on my way to Ohio tomorrow, which means lots of consecutive days of eating out. At first, I had some concerns about it – but now I know it’s going to be ok. So, what changed? In the book, Atomic Habits, James Clear tells a story about a friend who wanted to improve her health, and as went about it, she asked herself, “What would a healthy person do?” Would a person concerned with her health take the stairs or ride the elevator? Then she would take the stairs. Eventually, she reached her goal.

How the heck would this really work? So at work today I ordered lunch out with some friends. As was scrolling through the menu, I thought – what would someone who cares about her health order? I ordered a Mexican salad with grilled chicken, hold the cheese, and I’ll have the dressing on the side with a flavored seltzer – thanks. It worked. Since I’m traveling tomorrow, I wasn’t going to cook dinner. and it worked again. I am in the blue zone. Amazing. Just try it for yourself.

What’s the story?

When I was a kid and I had a problem, or I wanted something, I would seek out my dad. I would usually find him, reading, at the kitchen table with a book spayed open with densely worded pages. A cup of coffee to his right, and a cigarette burning orange in a ceramic ashtray to his left. His dark eyes cast downward taking in whatever the book was offering. Even though reading is a sedentary activity, he always seemed so engaged he would laugh, nod, or say the occasional, “Huh-huh”. He was both interested and content all at once. I would watch and wait, standing there waiting, to catch his gaze; eventually, he would look at me over his reading glasses and beneath his bushy eyebrows and say, “What’s the story?” Then he would focus all of that same intensity that had been reserved for reading on me. Whatever my story was at that moment, I’m sure he helped me figure it out.

This memory came back to me as I considered how well my identity matches up with my weight loss goal. My internal dialogue began with, what’s the story? Today (more than once) I found myself thinking, “I’m living a healthy lifestyle.” That little shift in mindset has really brought me some relief. It’s not about weight loss, but I will lose weight. My story is one of the small habits that contribute to my identity – I am a person who cares about her health and well-being.

Behind every system of actions is a system of beliefs.”

James Clear, Atomic Habits p 37
I found this picture from a Facebook group I belong to Northport Village NY

The Secret of Systems

The year I turned 50, I achieved my weight loss goal and it was fantastic. When a goal aligns with your identity it becomes an extension of who you really are. When a goal is driven by an outcome it is being motivated by something outside of yourself. So it is essential to understand the motivation for any goal you set because all of the habits that are formed create a system that is in service of the goal. Very simply, outcome-based habits (think goals driven by a life event – like say, turning 50) are very likely to fall away once the goal is achieved. But if habits are identity-based (goals are related to your perceived identity) habits will endure because those habits are an extension of who you really are.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

After reading about this, in James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, everything makes so much sense. Getting to Goal was created to help me reach my weight loss goal the year I turned 50, there was a countdown clock, and every post was entitled by the number of days I was on the journey. It did work, I did make goal, and I did learn a lot about myself. However, it did not endure because my outcome-based. My goal was attached to a timeline, first and my identity last.

When a goal is attached to identity, the important question to ask yourself is: What kind of person am I becoming on this weight loss journey? For me, I am a person who values a healthy lifestyle – that is part of who I am. My habits are forming a network of systems that exist because I live a healthy lifestyle. Knowing how to create these responsive systems will result in my losing weight because I am a person who lives a healthy lifestyle. See the difference?

Here is a secret about systems, they don’t defer happiness. If one system is to establish a habit of drinking 64 ounces of water each day – and I do that – I’m happy. If I only focus on my goal, to lose 40 pounds I’m not going to be happy for a while – happiness is deferred. I have not achieved my goal yet, and I won’t for a long while. However, I am so happy about my healthy habits – and the systems I am laying down because I live a healthy lifestyle. Let’s say I am a work in progress, but I am making progress as I continue to learn more.

Stress Test

I found out some stressful news today. I have to travel to NYC for professional development. I thought it would involve a trip to Penn and an Uber to the school. Turns out, the school is an hour away from Penn, so taking the train would just add another hour to the commute! After some, vigorous texting back and forth with my friends, we decided to drive. After coming to terms with our new plan, she said: “I’m going to need lots of snacks.” So being a good friend I listened…

After buying snacks, I promptly went to Carvel with my husband and got a small Carvelite ice cream cone with chocolate sprinkles (15 points). This took me out of my healthy eating zone but it was a great cone. Stress comes and so many of us look for comfort in food.

Here is what I also did today – I completed my 45-minute training class on the Peloton. I tracked everything I ate (37 points later). I drank all my water, and I weighed and measured my portions. I prepared a healthy dinner and figured out the point values by calculating the nutritional information in the app. I ate mindfully. So, overall, I would say this was a good day on plan. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to weight loss. It requires us to be fully present in our actions pretty much all the time. If it’s worth it to me – I can make it happen.

High Utility Habits

Do you have a junk drawer at your house? A drawer is a drawer that you allow yourself to just throw in whatever you want without any organization whatsoever. The only requirement is that the drawer can close. Out of sight out of mind. Until the tape is needed, or the little scale (don’t judge I do own two scales the little one is more precise with grams than the big one). The dog brush that untangles knots is there, right next to scented tartlets…

Some things are useless – like expired coupons or expo markers when there is no whiteboard in my kitchen. Some things are high utility objects, things I use every day like the tape, or pens you see in there. I think I have a condition that I always need office supplies on hand – but that’s a topic for another time.

In some ways, the habits I’m trying to cultivate are similar to this collection of stuff I hide away in my kitchen. Some habits are high utility – like tracking and movement goals. If I make those habits more accessible I am going to be more likely to lose weight. Others like meditation and bedtime routines are nice (and very good for me) but are not as likely to make or break my week when it comes to shedding weight.

So what habits are you trying to cultivate? As you think about it consider which ones are the most important – the ones you want to have on hand because they really make a difference.

Thanks for reading, and if you feel like it -leave a message, and let me know what you are thinking about.

A Little Imagination

I went for a walk today with my husband and our pup Sadie. It was cold and sunny, a welcome change from the soggy (unseasonably warm) grey weather of late. Along the way, we passed the telltale signs of post-holiday remains: condensed boxes tied neatly at the curb, a perfectly shaped Christmas tree rolled on its side, and houses stripped bare of their colorful lights. Then all of a sudden a splash of whimsy

Hello Mr. Narwhal

I just love a holdout. It sparked a little joy and optimism inside me like if you just look around you’ll find something special in the ordinary. Something that captures the imagination… I think it is very important to flex the imagination while trying to achieve any big goal. Especially when progress can be slow; as it sometimes is when it comes to weight loss. Think of it this way, imagination is the intellectual gift we give to ourselves. It is not something that is only reserved for artists, poets, and musicians. To imagine is to be human – it is innate to who we are and sustains us when the going gets tough.

Today has been a good day on plan. I hit my water goal, I am within my points, cooking dinner I planned out my meals for the week, and I had a very rigorous workout this morning followed by this leisurely walk that inspired this post. All of these tiny little goals knit together to form a strong foundation for my future success. No, I’m not perfect, as you can see by looking at my habit tracker… but the transformation to daily healthy habits is underway. I got this and if you believe it – so do you.

Tracking Transparency

How do you feel about writing down everything you eat? Have you ever done it? I have. When my healthy habits are ticking along under their own volition – it is somethingI do without even thinking about it. Meaning, it takes very little energy or thought to keep it going. Today’s WW meeting was all about how research says that people who track what they eat, lose weight.

“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”

Mother Teresa.

I believe that research because I lived it. On December 22, 2018, I reached “Lifetime!” (click here to read all about it) Faithful, honest tracking is a big reason I acheived this. If you are reading this (and are not a member of WW) “Lifetime” is a term meaning you have maintained your goal weight for 6 weeks and now you no longer have to pay to be a member.

So if you’re serious about reaching your weight loss goals, here are some tips that can help you started with tracking:

  • Write down the food or beverage as you eat. If you wait until the end of the day you may not be as accurate.
  • Be specific when tracking. For example, if you have a snack of pretzels, note the amount (a good kitchen scale helps with this).
  • Get ready, this can be a tough one, cocktails count – track the booze it adds up.
  • Writing in a journal or blogging works just fine, or a smartphone app like WW or My Fitness Pal can support your efforts. These apps also offer lots of helpful information.

So join me! Get on the right track but tracking. We can do it.

Victory

The word victory seems too big for turning down candy at professional development. It is hyperbole to use a word like that for such a small act. Victory is a special sort of word; one that sits high in the curio cabinet, bathed in the light waiting for “company” to arrive. To do something to earn such a word is to be admired. A rarified word that is meant for greatness, and not all meant for simply having some self-control during a work day.

Do you believe that? I really hope you don’t because weight loss is just plain old hard work for so many of us. And listen, if you turn down the candy bowl, or eat the lunch you pointed out and prepared instead of ordering out, and that makes you feel like a winner, I say, “Celebrate your victory!” It’s time to embrace these small acts because they add up and when you’re standing on the other side of “Goal!” with a big grin on your face it will certainly feel like VICTORY then.

A January Jump-Start

Let’s go 2023! I am using everything I have to jump-start my healthy habits. Dinner was not the greatest choice, and I was very hungry by the time I ate. Instead of one portion, I had two. I thought about weighing and measuring my portion but I didn’t do it. That was what kept me from coloring in that goal on the habit tracker. While this is kind of a downer, I won’t let it steal my joy in everything that did go well. Overall, this day was a total win. I didn’t snack. I ate all the foods I prepared, I worked out, and I drank my water. I am here blogging to share my story with anyone who cares to come along with me – I would say I am being downright earnest. I do feel a small shift and I KNOW I am due for a comeback.