Friday, October 24, 2014

Running You In

My friend Jane runs marathons. Once she said to me: Sometimes when I run a marathon, Henry (her teenage son) meets up with me at mile X and runs me in. She said that just having someone at that really hard part of the race to run along with, to keep pace with for a five-mile stretch, gave her what she needed to keep at it.

When I was starting Week 6 of my first Whole Life Challenge, Sharon Egan ran me in. She didn’t do much except tell me that she, too, did not tend to lose any weight for the first many weeks of the challenge, and then it came off at the end. “Just stick with it,” she texted me. It doesn’t seem like much, maybe, but at the time it was exactly what I needed to get to the end.

Although I consider myself analogy-impaired, I am going to offer you a metaphor that occurred to me this morning, because I've been trying to wrap my head around how to explain my impression of why it takes so long for the weight to come off.

Imagine you have a huge basement full of clutter and crap that you’ve been tossing down there for years. Then, one day, you decide you want a clean basement. (I’m sure you think you know exactly where this is going, but just humor me.)

Yes, it will take a lot of time to clean all that stuff out – you need to get a dumpster (that always takes time) and maybe a hazmat suit. But even if you devote an entire weekend to doing nothing but purging your crap, what you find under the crap is not necessarily the newly-renovated rec-room you were dreaming of. The walls may be peeling; there are big gaps in the baseboards that you’ve never even seen because they were obscured by all your overflow of stuff.

Now, imagine your basement is a self-repairing entity. Meaning, all that stuff that needs fixing is going to fix itself. Your only job is to get rid of all the garbage. But, all of it.

So, here we are. Weeks of "cleaning out." And you’re wondering why your basement is dragging its feet about its end of the bargain.

“Look,” says your basement, “I’m not going to fix all these baseboards just yet because chances are, you’re just going to dump more crap down here. That’s what you’ve been doing for years.”

And you’re like, “Fair enough. But I’m really not going to this time. No more junk. I swear.”

And your basement is like, “Well, what about that little pile of junk you threw down here yesterday?”

And you’re like, “Well, that was just small. And besides, I had an Indulgence Token.”

And your basement is basically, like, “Fuck the Indulgence Tokens. If you want me to start fixing things, I really need to know that you’re not going to junk things up again.”

And you’re like, “Seriously? I used to throw stuff down here with abandon, and now I barely do.” But your basement is feeling like maybe you really don’t know what belongs down there and what doesn’t.

That’s what I’m talking about.

I’m not saying you can never have cheese or bread or chocolate ever again. All I’m saying is that it takes a long time for your basement to trust that you’re going to keep things pretty clean. And the only way it knows that is for you to prove it, over what feels like an unspeakably long time.

But once your basement really believes you know what you're doing and doesn’t need to deal with your errant clutter anymore, you will not believe how spiffy it will make itself. You can just sit upstairs brewing hot, buttered coffee. It will do all the repairs on its own.

I’m not sure how that’s going to go over with anyone. I’m not a runner and maybe this isn’t inspiring at all. But if it is…consider yourself “run in.”

Friday, October 17, 2014

Old Dogs, New Tricks (WLC)

Sometimes, when I talk about this “food challenge,” people get the impression that I have a great deal of will power.

I don’t.

Anyone who knows me even a little bit, knows I have practically no tolerance for discomfort of any kind. And breaking habits is uncomfortable.

I was talking to someone the other day and explaining how a big part of “changing the way I eat” has had to do with changing when, where and why I eat – maybe even more than “what” I eat. Early on, I made a pact with myself that I would try and only eat when I was actually hungry. And I would eat however much I wanted at that time, until I felt satisfied. 

When I have something to write and am not sure how to attack it, my first response is to go eat something. When I go out and run an errand, as soon as I return home I go to the kitchen and eat something. Even if I’d just eaten 15 minutes before. When I have to make order out of chaos on my desk, I eat something first. I’m rarely ever hungry during these times. It’s more of a habit – something I do to soothe myself, something I do to transition to the next thing. Those were the habits I broke early in this challenge – and they were as hard (if not harder) than giving up sugar. Partly, because I was forced to figure out other ways to soothe myself. Or (far worse) exist in a state of unsoothiness. (Yes, I just made up that word. But, I’m pretty sure I’m going to start using it often.)

I now do not eat if I’m not hungry. Even if I’m at a party, or out to dinner. I need to be hungry to eat. That’s the deal I made with myself. It may seem completely insane from the outside looking in, but to me, it feels like the first sane way I’ve approached food in my entire life.

There aren’t that many weeks to go on this challenge. If you have habits you need to break, use this challenge and the support here to try breaking them. It takes a long time (some people estimate 3 months, others 6 months) to develop a new habit, but certainly the early weeks are the hardest.

I don’t give food a second thought on this challenges, but the lifestyle challenges – decluttering, getting more sleep, stretching – are things I still need to develop habits around. Here, I get a taste of what my life could be like if I get more sleep for a week, and I can decide if it’s worth the effort to make that a priority. You can too.