Obsession or Habit?

The equilibrium of consistency and perseverance.

Embarking upon the quest for better health can easily turn into the “current project” or “hobby” that takes up a big chunk of our time. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, for starters, as long as it remains the primary focus of our discretionary time, we’re probably neglecting other important elements of our lives, like relationships with others! This, in turn, can end up working against us, as we feel pulled in too many directions and become overwhelmed with the attempt to hold it all together. At that point, we’ll usually give up altogether, and fall back into our former, usual, way of doing things. It’s also simply not possible. As we say, “life happens,” and many times we find ourselves facing circumstances over which we have no control. Disruptions to routine, such as unexpected car failure, traffic jams, railroad crossings, etc. happen all the time, and we need to be ready to “roll with the punches,” if our plans for healthy living are to succeed.

What are some signs that a desire for a healthier life is more of an obsession, rather than a healthy intention?

1. Attempting to reach a weight loss goal at a rate of anything more than 1-2 pounds per week (unless under the strict orders and direction of a physician). This is the recommended rate of weight loss that has been agreed upon by experts for decades, and when I look back at my own weight loss journey, this was the average rate, over a 14-month period. And it’s important, once again, to keep the “big picture” in mind—there might be some weeks when a person might lose 3-5 pounds or more, and in another week not lose any, or even gain a pound or two. It’s the trend over time that matters. This is my biggest complaint about shows like a new one on TLC called “Fat Chance,” wherein a person attempts to lose an amount of weight in a certain amount of time, in order to become more appealing (in his or her own mind) to another person. In the first episode, Daniel set a goal of losing 84 pounds in  90 days. That’s a little more than 6.5 pounds per week! If we’re attempting this rate of weight loss, it’s going to involve adjusting your lifestyle in such a way that the weight loss becomes the primary focus of your life—and that means it’s not “just the way that you live.” Drastic, sudden changes to eating habits, as well as level of activity, will be necessary. This can easily lead to disappointment, frustration, and other negative emotions, to say nothing of the fact that it can potentially lead to injury (through excessive or improperly done exercise, or malnutrition). Far better to adopt eating habits and exercise routines that support good health all the time, not just while attempting to reach a specific goal.

2. Feeling excessive irritation and anger when “life happens” and our plans are disrupted. I woke up last Thursday with the intention to go to the gym and do cardio. About 20 minutes before leaving the house, I learned that others in the family had made plans that weren’t going to allow me to do this. While I could have gotten angry, made a big deal of it, and, basically thrown a temper tantrum, I decided to simply take the morning off, and enjoy a little bit of extra free time. Since my overall pattern of cardio, weightlifting, eating habits, etc. is consistent, an occasional, unplanned, day off doesn’t negatively impact my long-term goals in the least. If anything, it’s beneficial, allowing the body time to more fully rest and recover.

3. Feeling that missed workouts must be “made up” at another time during the day or week. This was once a big one for me. Back in the 1980s, right after I’d lost a lot of weight, I walked 6 miles or more every day. Six was (in my mind) the minimum. If I couldn’t get the 6 miles in the morning, then I’d feel that I had to get it later in the day, or, make up for it with additional walks during the week. 42-mile weeks were nothing to me, and I’d often get 50+, even, on occasion, getting 60+. I still remember the way that it would “hang over my head” if I hadn’t yet reached the six miles for the day. The nagging feeling would distract me from living fully in the moment, and I am sure that I often gave up time that would have been better spent with family, just so that I could “get those miles.”

4. Feeling strongly about just giving up, if and when things don’t go according to plan. Self-explanatory, but I think it applies especially to weight loss. You may remember reading about my experience losing weight along with my parents: I had lost 42 pounds, but, upon discovering my dad’s secret cache of cookies in the freezer, just gave up and regained the lost weight and more.

I think you get the idea. A sure sign that you’ve got the right perspective about all of this, is that you’re ready to “go with the flow” when necessary, and have no problem getting back on track at the earliest opportunity. Remember…

Keep the big picture in mind; it’s the trend over time that matters the most.

 

Author: Ron Maurey

Pianist, teacher, vocal coach, and church musician. Fitness enthusiast.

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