How do you define success? Landing that dream job? Wealth? Fame? A game won? Goals met? I’m guessing that everyone’s “ruler” for measuring success looks different.
My “ruler” is rather long. In other words, to get that end of the ruler where success lies seems unattainable. So, how did my ruler get so long? I’m not sure. Are my goals for success truly attainable? Or is my definition of success wrong? So, you’re probably wondering now why I’m talking about rulers and success on a blog about healthy living? Before I get to that point, let me share a little about my background.
Kristi's Before Picture
I’ve struggled with weight issues all of my life. Like many, I tried a variety of routes to quick weight loss, nothing extreme. I would see temporary success from these efforts. The operative word here is “temporary.” I tried exercise without adjusting my eating habits. The exercise worked until an injury forced me to curtail my activity. Then I heard about the danger of what was called “yo-yo dieting.” That seemed like a good excuse to give up dieting. The scale made a slow climb upward followed by health issues: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
Perhaps fear would be a motivator to lose weight? It was. The doctor gave me a couple sheets of paper with a food list and calorie restriction. I was able to lose some weight that way. The doctor even praised my efforts. It was a start. But I still had a ways to go. Eventually the calorie restriction no longer worked so I followed a faith-based weight loss plan. That helped for a while, too. It also gave me a new perspective about my relationship with food. These two plans worked because they were based on solid principles and I learned from them. It wasn’t long before people started noticing the weight loss and were very encouraging.
Once all the health threats were in my rearview mirror, I relaxed my weight loss efforts. I got comfortable. I maintained the new weight loss for a while. But, by not carefully monitoring my habits, the pounds slowly caught up to me. I would make some temporary changes but I always fell back into old habits. This went on for a few years.
I still had more weight to lose. I would make attempts at it by trying these methods that had worked before, but I was not finding success. At one point I blamed the problem on anything I could think of. “It was all out of my control. It wasn’t anything I was doing.” Hmmm. Really? Well, it felt better to lay the blame somewhere else. After more months of trying it on my own, I hadn’t made the scale budge one bit. I wasn’t gaining, but I also wasn’t losing. What’s happening? I’m doing everything I did before!
It was during this time that I received a telephone call that I’ll never forget. My Dad had suddenly passed away. Some people eat when they’re upset. Not me. I do consider myself an emotional eater, but not under these circumstances. For days after hearing this news, I couldn’t eat much at all. The appetite just wasn’t there. After things began to settle down after this tragic event, I returned into my regular habits again. I could see myself struggling with the same problems I had before. The only difference this time was my emotions had been completely dumped out, rearranged, and stuffed back inside. I didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with both the loss of my father and weight struggles. That’s when I saw this huge warning sign. It was telling me that I needed to make a radical change or there was gonna be big trouble, baby!
Several friends had attended Weight Watchers meetings and lost weight with success. When asked if I’d considered attending, I’d say, meetings and weigh-ins weren’t for me. Yet, something was different this time. I needed help. To paraphrase the old saying, “The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing but expecting a different result.” Although my friends were not currently attending meetings, I summoned up the courage to go to the Weight Watcher’s center all by myself.
Weight Watchers and my wonderful leader gave me the tools and support I needed. I even enjoyed the meetings. I was losing weight and doing well. I had donated an entire closet-full of clothes to charity. I lost 4 dress sizes before Weight Watchers and another 3 dress sizes during this time. I managed to get really, really close to my goal weight. Then I hit a plateau. Drat! During this plateau I relaxed my efforts again. Plus, I had been doing the plan long enough that I stopped closely monitoring foods, guessing at portion sizes, etc. On vacations, I would eat just a little more than I needed with the thought that I’d make up for it when I got home. I put a little more distance between me and my goal weight again. I am presently still working on reaching my goal weight. I keep attending weekly meetings and working on changing my habits. I’ve even entertained the idea of throwing in the towel, but I choose to keep going.
So, returning to the ruler analogy, was I successful? That inner voice tells me that I am not successful until I reach my goal weight. But then I’m reminded of a topic that was discussed in a Weight Watchers meeting: Give Yourself Credit. The challenge was to take a close look at everything we did right rather than focusing on everything we did wrong. My leader suggested that each time we made a good choice, or a better choice than we might have made in the past, that we keep track. One way to keep track would be to put a coin (or a dollar bill) in a jar for every good choice. At the end of six weeks, we would see how many things we did right. As a bonus, we could plan to spend that money on a non-food reward. I opted not to use money for tracking my credits but I did hang a sheet of paper on my refrigerator and made a tally mark for each credit. For example, each time I drank enough water that day, I’d put a mark on the sheet. If I opted to eat a piece of fruit instead of something sweet or high fat, I’d put a mark on the sheet. It’s amazing what happens when you start looking for the good things instead of focusing on the negative! (Oh, and I did reward myself.)
Those little tally marks represented small successes each day. And, as I look back through my journey over the years, I can see that even though there were times when it seemed I took three steps forward and two steps back, I still managed to find success. I just didn’t recognize it at the time. I did lose weight. And even though I didn’t always keep it off, I learned from it. I made better choices even if they weren’t always the best choices. All of this is a learning process. I still make bad choices. And it’s so very easy for me to focus on the 20% that I did wrong instead of the 80% that I do right.
What’s wrong with this picture? If my friend was berating herself about this, I would be the first one to encourage her. Then why won’t I encourage myself? I’m much harder on myself than I should be. That’s probably why my “success ruler” has gotten so very long. I’m so focused on the success at the end, I’ve forgotten to take notice of the small successes along the way.
Have you ever examined a ruler? There are tiny little marks all along the ruler which indicate the measurements--inches, quarter inches, etc. It’s impossible to get from one end of the ruler to the other without passing all those little marks. I think I’ll look at those marks a little differently from now on. Those are success marks! And they go all the way to the end!
Author of The Child Sensitive Communication Grid
P.S. You may have noticed that I haven’t given any totals about how much weight I’ve lost. That’s because I don’t want to focus on the numbers here but I do want to focus on healthy thinking and healthy living.
Kristi After, Nov 10