Jun 132012

Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, Revised Edition by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, M.D.  

Last year, I read Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It and started a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. I lost 25 pounds by Thanksgiving. I couldn’t get below 197, though, and decided to take the holidays “off”. I gained some weight back, of course, but went back on the diet mid-January. Again, I kept bouncing off the 200 pound wall. My wife suggested I read Dr. Atkin’s revised edition as it had a chapter on what to do about stalling.

I resisted for several months because I really don’t enjoy reading books on health. I finally gave in and read it. I learned a few things, but it was mostly repeat of what I read before. He had a few good ideas on what to do when weight loss stalls out and I am trying some of them. One is to quit stepping on the scale every day. I do it once a week now and last time I did, I was at 198. I am also keeping closer track of exactly what I eat and counting every carb. It is a pain, but so far, so good. I hope to lost this last 20 pounds and then go into maintenance mode. I can hardly wait.

Jan 202012

Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not.
– Robert M. Pirsig

I saw this quote yesterday and was struck by the relevancy. Are you skilled at shaping yourself? Do you know how to discipline yourself into new, productive habits? Or are you stuck in good intentions, not becoming anything like the hopes you have for yourself?

Once we discipline ourselves into making small changes to ourselves, we can learn to make bigger changes. As children, we began with the small things, like combing our hair, doing homework right after school or cleaning our rooms. After mastering these items, we move up to more difficult challenges and learn to shape ourselves into what we want to be.

The person who doesn’t understand the basics of changing habits and has little willpower finds it extremely difficult to mold themselves into the desired character. They have to learn to master the small stuff, even it is means returning to the child-like tasks. It takes practice to obtain a skill. Repetition is what provides the ability to truly mold ourselves into what we want to become.

Struggling with a goal or a resolution? Take the time to think it through. What is it you really want to become? Don’t just define the milestone (I want to weight 180 pounds by July 4). Also add the traits necessary to adopt in your life (I eat healthy foods in appropriate portions and exercise regularly). After all, the end goal isn’t achievable in a day, but the trait is. Today, I ate the correct foods and I spent 30 minutes at lunch on the Stairmaster. Today, I have mastered those traits that lead to the ultimate goal. Tomorrow I have to start over again on mastering the skill, but I will have the residual strength gained today.

Today, my steel is closer to the shape I desire. The closer I get to that desired shape, the more resilient it is to mistakes or accidents. I found it much easier today to turn down the fresh, hot scones with chocolate sauce at work than a year ago. Last year I would have had at least three. Perhaps four. It’s no wonder I was in the shape I was last year at this time.

Oct 312011

Now I sit me down to write,
Unknown readers I hope delight.
Yet, when prime motives I define,
It is my own soul to refine.

Last Friday, I attended an offsite training session for my work. I had forgotten to tell the organizers of my diet, so when lunch showed up, as usual, I was at a loss of what to eat. We were offered fantastic sandwiches, chips and a selection of enticing pastries and sweets for dessert. Times like these make it difficult to stay on a diet. Little that can be done inconspicuously in a group setting. I took a sandwich and pulled it apart to eat the turkey, lettuce and tomato, discarding the fragrant, tempting focaccia bread. This practice sparked a discussion around the table on diets, exercise and how we all wish we could stay on them.

One question asked by a colleague stopped me dead in my tracks. As he polished off a large chocolate chip cookie and a rich-looking chocolate eclair, he asked what is my motivation for staying on the diet. I stuttered and stammered over a response. I couldn’t explain it. I wasn’t even sure myself. That question has bothered me for the past two days.

The easy answer is I want to lose weight. However, I have wanted to lose weight on previous attempts, too. Those attempts always ended in failure. There is more to the answer than dropping a few pounds. What about the exercise? I have stuck closer to a regular regimen of running than at any time previously. I had a goal of running 5k, and I made it. It would have been easy to give up so many times. When I started, I thought I wanted to run in a race and get a cool T-shirt. Now that I can make it over 3 miles without gasping like a fish out of water, I have no desire to run the race. I prefer to run alone in the dark, early morning.

When I lived in Boise, I decided I was going to ride my bike to work instead of drive. I bought a bike, cool biker clothes and did it. I rode two or three times each week for over a year. Sure, I wanted to be healthy and save money over driving, but those weren’t the prime motivations, either.

Why have I persevered on writing this blog for nearly a year? Why, even when I have taken a few days or weeks off, have I come back and continued to write? Originally, I thought perhaps I could make some money doing it, but have since learned very few people make money blogging. What is the attraction?

I mulled the question of motivation this weekend, finally pulling it apart enough to come to an answer. Anyone remember the first topic I took up in January as I started? Discipline. I have struggled with discipline my whole life. From a child, I was told I was undisciplined. I spent money as quickly as I earned it. I wouldn’t practice my French horn regularly. I got good grades but wouldn’t study. I couldn’t keep my room clean to save my mother’s sanity.

My adult life seemed just as undisciplined to me. I watched too much television. I started hobbies and didn’t follow through. I drifted on a career path, not knowing what I wanted or having any set goals. I allowed life’s currents to take me where they would.

The turning point, I believe, was going back to school to finish my bachelor degree. My motivation began as a requirement from my boss – get it or else. However, as I discovered the joy of learning, my motivation changed. This was something difficult that I could do for myself. I could do difficult things. In this case, I could take one or two classes while working full time and still being a good parent.

After finishing college, I took on learning the piano. I took up hobbies and developed talent people respected. I began turning pens, not because I could make money doing it, but because it was something no one else was doing and I could make something admired.

It has been the striving to be disciplined that has kept me on my diet, writing the blog and running. It is a drive to do something special that keeps me coming back, day after day. The only way I can prove it to myself is by adding one more link to the chain. I hope to prove to myself someday that I am disciplined and can do great things. This blog is therapy for sorting out my feelings, thinking them through and putting them into concrete form. The diet demonstrates I can stay on something every day, without fail until a goal is reached. The running helps me fight against the demons of procrastination. Sometimes I lose, sometimes I win. Each win is a triumph that leaves me glowing the rest of the day.

This has been a winning year. I am making the progress toward discipline I hoped for back in January. I appreciate the question from my friend. I hadn’t thought this through enough to know what I have been chasing all these years. Now that it has a name, perhaps I will figure out how to declare victory.

Thank you for indulging me in a little introspection. Do you feel you are disciplined? If so, how did you develop it? I would love to hear your thoughts.