I’ve been thinking today about motivation – particularly what drives me and why, as well as how to maintain or even further augment it. Writing my retrospective post was a really good reminder of all the little mental tricks I’ve used over the last twelve months to keep going and I’m wondering what comes next.
I’ve said in the past that I want to eventually climb Snowdon again, but I don’t know when that will be (abstractly I’m thinking this coming year sometime) and honestly it’s more of an ‘eventually I want to’ rather than an ‘I need to do this tomorrow’ goal.
I’ve changed tactics a few times over the last year (mostly so that boredom doesn’t become an issue) and bit by bit have set different challenges so that I’ve had something always just on the horizon. These have tended to be just out of reach – but never so far away that they seem impossible or demoralising.
Rather than worrying about where I’ve got to get to I’ve just tried to take lots and lots of little steps, until such time that I can take bigger and bigger ones. So far it’s worked.
I originally had a lot of success with using physical objects to relate my weight loss to and work towards. When I did those I broke them up in to two blocks of five stone each, which seemed a bit more do-able. This was really useful and even now the 7 stone fridge freezer photo that I got a shop assistant in Currys to take for me is one of my favourite moments on my journey – and a nice, tangible real world example of my progress that everyone can relate to.
The problem with that is that the more you lose, the more outlandish and un-relateable the objects end up becoming. After all – apart from the weight of someone you know what does ten stone represent to the average person?
A huge piece of bad taste jewellery is amusing – but I’m never going to see it or hold it myself so it ends up being a meaningless achievement in practical terms.
I’ve learned from experience that this aspect of a goal is very important – visualising objects to lose has ceased to motivate me because of this, even though I had fun with them at the time.
My inner nerd also enjoyed the ‘Lands End to John o Groats’ distance statistics and graphs that my walking goal provided. The progress that my ever increasing distance showed also made my push myself more and more.
I’m still adding up the miles I’ve walked even though I’ve reached my goal, just so I know what it is (I’m well over the 1000 miles mark now!) but from an improvement perspective it’s beginning to flatline somewhat.
I can easily walk long distances now in 2-3 mile chunks, but without a bench rest for 30 mins or so after that I find I get blisters not long after. If I rest then 6-7 miles is probably my daily top end now. Also the sheer length of time it takes to walk from A-B on long jaunts and the blisters these can cause when I overdo it just to get a bigger bar on my graph can end up having a negative impact rather than a positive one.
Distance then is no longer the answer either. I can’t just keep walking further and further all day long. I do after all also need a job.
Then there are numbers from the past – and chasing the man I was as well as the man I want to be.
Back in November I set some interim goals – and I’m very close to the first of those. 24st 5lbs was the lowest I managed to get to on the 3rd of May when I last tried to lose weight in 2008 and that’s now within touching distance. I’m only four pounds away. Next I turn the clock back a little further to November of 1999 when I was attending Weight Watchers and got down to 22st 12.5lbs.
When I reach that weight I’ve turned the clock back to the last millennium.
That’s nice – but it’s not going to last me long according to Slimming World’s helpful online predicted loss and progress chart. Roughly speaking it expects me to hit this target sometime around the first week in March.
I’ll try not to disappoint it – but after that I’m in a void of sorts. I never recorded my weight much prior to that so it’s all uncharted territory. Apart from briefly being 12st 7lbs when I was 16 I’ve nothing else to work with.
So – none of these seem to be hitting the spot at the moment – but maybe I’m missing the point a little. As I alluded to before something appears to be changing (at least for the moment) in my fundamental attitude to losing weight.
The more I’ve gotten used to the shopping, food preparation, cooking times, and length of ‘fullness’ that my favourite ‘go to’ meals provide me the less my journey has been about what I eat. I’ve suddenly stopped worrying about weighing in.
There are reasons for this though.
A few weeks ago I decided to give up on guesswork. The ‘Speed’, ‘Free’ and ‘Syn’ food groups that underpin the Slimming World plan work when you follow the guidelines – however they can also be open to abuse, especially to a man like me who can still eat very large portions in one sitting.
If fat people like to do one thing it’s avoid the truth. I’m no exception to this. I think I have Ostrich DNA.
So I started adding up calorie counts so that I absolutely knew what I was eating.
A really good day sees me consuming around 1500-1600 kcal, and an average one is probably around 2000-2100. An off the rails day lately only seems to mean about 2500 -which is due to the fact I don’t keep ANYTHING in the house that I can go truly nuts with.
Unless I want to drink a litre of olive oil, but that’s never really appealed to me.
The worst I can do outside of that is have a second banana (I only ever have two in the house at a time) or a whole bag of frozen strawberries. So – although I have off days, the food is (currently at least) locked down. I plan to tackle the portion sizes at a later date but I’m still hoping that will sort itself out.
The exercise is what’s changing…
So if a big push into this is what comes next then I want to understand what is currently making me feel so driven. I want to move forward with every fibre of being – but why am I feeling like this? I’m not sure what is providing my impetus at the moment with exercise, and my urge seems almost primal lately.
Is it newfound capability or just determination?
Initially it was the latter as the former was in short supply a year ago – but both now seem to go hand in hand and have become interlinked in a way that they never were before. Now the more I do the more I end up wanting to do. A year ago it was very different and my progress was initially almost completely dependant upon mental brute force and willing myself to take another step.
I did a little more research recently into Apple Watch’s activity stats and how they work. It seems that as long as you keep your weight up to date (I do) in the health app, the watch learns what you regularly get up to and adjusts itself accordingly. So – even though I was doing more at the start of January than I was 12 months ago, my exercise stat hadn’t MASSIVELY changed until mid January when I started working hard on making it go up.
In order to do this I had to do a LOT more than I had previously done. The aim of the fitness app is to ensure constant progression rather than just staying the same and watching a pedometer counter go up endlessly for doing the same walk that you did when you were ten stone heavier.
I’m already noticing the benefit of the increased cardio exercise that this requires and it’s only been three weeks since I started a push toward it.
However – I’m loathe to assign a goal associated to this until I become a bit more secure with how my mood and body reacts to it over time. I still have way too much weight (and knackered knees) to do something like jogging, but I’m getting better and better on my exercise bike – and if my last loss of 6lbs was anything to go by (I don’t expect or want that every week) it’s going to be a long term winner.
So – I still haven’t answered my question, which is irritating. Normally by this time I’ve decided on something. However internet – maybe that’s been my mistake. I’ve tried to create a formula in the past and tie a neat little bow on it rather than just coming to one organically.
Increasing my cardio capability does nothing but good and also plays perfectly into my Snowdon goal – even if I’m not yet consciously working towards it. As I get fitter maybe it will all just slot into place…
I suppose while I’m still enjoying my walking and (to an extent) my exercise bike, eating well and staying focused I can just let this slide for a little while. Feel free to give me ideas in the comments though – I can’t promise I’ll take action on them but you never know!