I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

August 25, 2014

“…and I hope I never do.” So sings Bono in an impromptu lyric change for a live performance of the well-known u2 song. This phrase “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…and I hope I never do” is a very interesting one to me, with myriad layers of meaning- one of which, I can overlay on the quest to get into better shape.

Sorry in advance for the self-centered musing and internal talk. A part of the reason for this blog is to capture things for myself for future reference, and also potentially, in some way, to influence others. This post will accomplish at least one, maybe both.

Like almost everyone who is trying to lose large amounts of weight, I have a real love-hate relationship with the scale.

On the one hand, it’s easily the most objective + accessible means to gauge progress in fitness. Note the word “fitness”. Those who are trying simply to “lose weight” have it wrong, in my view. The goal is to get into better SHAPE – to improve FITNESS – to promote LONGEVITY – and to adopt a permanently healthy lifestyle. Again, though, to that end, the number on the scale is the quickest, easiest objective report card available.

On the other, though, focus on the scale introduces a variety of complications in your mission. Simplest is, in fact, that watching the scale does risk putting the emphasis on watching that number move – not on the proper things, i.e. fitness, health. Other complicating factors can arise tied to quirks in one’s own personality.

For me personally, I SOMETIMES feel almost like scale-watching is a lose-lose proposition. Let’s say I weigh in and am down what I hoped or even further. Great!, you say. Yes, great – but now, I tend to feel like I’ve earned a “reward”. “Rewards” can easily become a slippery slope to lower vigilance. Also a tendency to think, “Ok, great, I got this in the bag” – and to, even entirely subconsciously, take your foot off the accelerator a little. Become a little cavalier. Become less driven, less motivated. Say instead that I weigh in and am not down what I hoped – maybe I miss it big, in fact. This is even worse. Now there’s a big risk of a tailspin of despair. “Man, I worked my BUTT off the last X days since last weigh-in. And all it got me was THIS?!” I begin to doubt my system. I begin to doubt myself. Demons of doubt creep in: “Maybe I can’t do this.” Nothing is more toxic, truly.

In my roughly 5-year journey since I started losing weight (which has decidedly not been a straight line, as several of my friends who have been there to encourage me will attest), I have suffered both of these effects, more than a couple times.

All of this has been on my mind the last couple days as I approach my next weigh-in. Readers may recall that I last weighed in 2 weeks ago, at which point I was down big – some 4.3 pounds in 2 weeks. The plan then became to weigh in every other Wednesday.

Fast forward the intervening two weeks. I’ve been doing great, and I mean GREAT. I have not been THIS dialed in, with all aspects of my fitness, for over a year – probably 14 months. I am seeing progress in so many ways – on the bike, with the fit of clothes, with the face in the mirror, with my day-to-day feeling, etc. There’s really no question at all that I am moving in the right direction, and rapidly.

That then begs the question: Why weigh in this Wednesday? If the goal is improved fitness, and weight loss as a consequence of that – and it surely seems both are coming along fine – then what is to be gained by stepping on a scale? I already KNOW I’m doing well. I don’t need a scale to tell me that. The scale can only complicate things. I can either be as far along or farther, than I think, which can introduce some slothfulness; or I can be well less far along, which can only generate confusion.

I have been thinking to myself recently that if I hit X weight this Wednesday, I’d give myself a little reward. What reward? I didn’t yet decide. But the point here is, in my internal dialog about whether to weigh in or not, I find that this reward is a factor. “I WANT to weigh in, because I feel confident the number will be good, and thus I’ll get a little treat”. But at the same time I recognize that this is risky, for all the reasons given above.

The last day or two, the thought occurred to me to not weigh in at all until X date – something several weeks off. I like this idea in principle, although I find that it will test my willpower and my curiousity to know just what I’ve accomplished. This, then, ultimately became THE deciding factor. I turned the question around on myself this morning. “Which path do I WANT to take, in the sense of it being the easiest? Which is the path of less resistance?” The answer was clear. Weighing in this week will be, in a way, bailing out on myself. One trait that I have – a gift – is that when I dedicate to something, I become very hungry and drive very hard. But this drive, applied to fitness, risks being dulled by objective confirmation of success. It’s hard to stay hungry (for me it is) when I feel like I have a little bit less to prove. I thrive on feeling like I have something to prove. And so, I think I am better served by keeping myself pushing hard, not allowing myself the simple pat on the back. I want to stay hungry to continue with my good habits, and deferring weighing in till a date certain, well into the future, is a good way for me to do that. Different folks tick in different ways. This is how I tick.

Therefore, I’ve decided. My birthday is exactly 100 days from today (counting today). In addition to the 12 days since I last weighed in, this gets us to 16 weeks. A nice round number; essentially (although not exactly) 4 months, etc. By that time, I expect to have blasted through my best-ever weight of 184. I anticipate being anywhere from 16-32 pounds down by then; 18 would find me back at 184. So, the plan is set. I’ll defer weighing in again – even once, even “just for a little sneak preview” – till my birthday, at which point I expect I’ll be in the best shape I’ve been in in many, many, many years. Till then, I will stay hungry and in the hunt.

Another update 100 days away……

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