Goals are important, but unless you are accountable to those goals, they may not mean much. Writing down your goals makes them more real than just thinking about them. Sharing your goals with others is even better.
There is no way I would ever be able to run 1,000 miles this year if I didn’t keep up with this blog.
I have several levels of accountability when it comes to my lifestyle changes. Probably the most important is this blog (and to a smaller extent my twitter account ). I don’t have an extremely high readership by any stretch, but once I post something, it becomes real to me. Sometimes I backtrack on what I write (yes, I made up with peanut butter) but the act of writing makes me more thoughtful on what I commit to.
Tracking is another great tool for me. I use Fitbit® and mapmyrun to track my daily, weekly, and yearly progress. I may want to skip a run or just stay in bed for a week, but just looking at my own numbers keeps me moving. For example, my daily step goal is 8k steps and many nights I’ve looked to see only 5k, 6k, or even 7,599 and decided I better just finish off my steps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken an 11 pm walk just to get the numbers on my Fitbit over 8,000. Not just because friends and family are following me, but because the numbers remind me how important my goals are to me.
And it’s not just exercise. For the last two years I’ve written down everything I ate. It may seem strange since I pretty much eat the same thing every day, but I find that if I don’t write it down, it doesn’t count in my mind. No one sees my food log (and a food log may seem very diet-y for a non-diet person) but when I don’t write it down it is easy to fall into old habits and slip in the foods that de-rail me. For me, this also lets me be more non-diet. If I want to eat something not on my program I do and don’t worry about it. For example, on my recent vacation I enjoyed some brownies and an absolutely delicious piece of cheesecake. I tracked and moved on. No regrets, no guilt, and no pretending I didn’t do it.
And that is the ultimate accountability – to myself. Whether I track my progress or share my goals, I need to be honest with myself. I owe it to myself to invest the time and energy into myself.
The other day I was doing one of my long runs (over 13 miles) and feeling great. Nothing was hurting (unbelievable) and my pace was decent compared to recent runs. About 4 miles out a woman passed me as if I was standing still. For about 20 seconds my heart sank. I’m too slow, I thought and it took a lot of effort to get that thought out of my head.
I spent the next 2 miles telling myself:
You aren’t competing with her;
you are competing with yourself.
This is a difficult lesson for me. I don’t think of myself as very competitive, but I guess at some level I am. When I look at other runners (strangers, friends, family) I always feel like a failure. I’m too slow, it takes me forever to improve, blah, blah, blah. But when I look at myself and how far I’ve come and how much better I am than I was, I can’t help but feeling like a superwoman. Obviously I’m better off focusing my energy inward, don’t you think?
In High School we were supposed to run a mile for gym class and I could barely walk it. Only a few years ago I periodically needed a cane to walk. I remember walking over the Brooklyn Bridge with my family and being totally crippled by the task. When I first started running it took 14 or 15 min to run a mile. The idea that I would ever run a half-marathon was inconceivable, but I’ve already run over 13 miles (twice and counting) and my regular pace fluctuates around 11 min miles (12 or 13 min miles on those really long runs and under 10 in my last race).
And I’m not done improving. In 32 weeks I’ll be 50, but I’m faster, stronger, and braver than I’ve ever been in my whole life. And I got this way– not by looking at other people– but by constantly competing with my old self.
The original title of this post was “Don’t Skimp on Running Shoes.” Then I added “Or Running Bras.”
Then I thought, “Well, that doesn’t apply to people who don’t run….” So I started looking for the bigger message and I realized it was more about making sure you take care of your own needs.
The right pair of running shoes can make you feel like a track-star!
If you are exercising regularly (especially running or walking), good shoes are important. They provide a foundation. They keep you from getting hurt. If you buy cheap shoes things will hurt more than they need to and you will be more likely to give up.
The same goes for running bras. I can’t speak for women of all sizes and shapes, but larger women particularly need to invest in some good running bras; something with maximum support, wide, padded straps, and absolutely no underwire (trust me on this). There are fewer choices when you are shopping for plus-sized running bras. The goal of a good sports bra is nothing should move.
Good running shoes and good running bras cost money. When I started running I didn’t have much money and it was tempting to try to purchase cheaper products. I think if I had gone this route, my running days would have been numbered. Instead, I opted to go without other things (I had one pair of work shoes for a really long time) and invested in good quality bras and shoes.
In the long run (get it??) the investment paid off, because I was able to meet my goals. When you are cutting back, there are plenty of ways to skimp and save. Cutting coupons, buying store-brands, waiting for sales. But when it comes to the things that support you (shoes, bras, whatever) don’t always go for the cheaper option. Invest in what you need– invest in yourself.
I never realized the importance of goals, until I didn’t have any.
In a few past posts I’ve discussed a time in my life when my world fell instantly and irreparably apart. In some ways I will always be healing from that time.
One of the things that was so devastating was that everything I thought I was working towards was instantly taken away from me. I lived for more than three years without any goals at all. (Unless you count getting through the day a goal, which, I guess it was.)
I was spinning out of control without goals.
When I started to heal, I also started to make new goals. At first they were very small goals. In 2011, for example, I wrote down these three goals:
- I will walk two times per week or more. Any length walk will count.
- I will enter some type of race or walkathon to celebrate my new activity.
- I will continue to blog about my life, paying more attention to the Wins than the Fails.
Click this image to learn more about writing goals.
I didn’t reach any one of them in 2011.
Except I have reached all of them. Eventually. It may have taken me a lot longer to get the strength I needed, but I did achieve these amazingly simple and yet insurmountable goals. And I continued to make new goals.
Here are some of the current goals I’m working towards:
• On September 13th I will complete a half-marathon in less than 3 hours.
• In 2015 I will run 1,000 miles.
• Before my 50th birthday I will post 40 things I’ve learned in my 40’s.
I also have some family, education, and career goals, that are shared in different places and with different people. What are your goals?
This might seem so obvious as to be ridiculous, but I couldn’t move forward until I learned to be nicer to myself. I have spent most of my life as my own worst enemy. No one could ever make me feel as low or as bad about myself as I did. It has been a constant struggle learning to quiet the nasty comments in my head, and to speak kindly and encouragingly to myself.
You know the old trope of the angel and devil sitting on each shoulder, telling you what to do? For most of my life, I have had the equivalent of Tania Degano (Muriel’s Wedding), Sadie Saxton (Awkward), and Regina George (Mean Girls) sitting on my shoulders telling me what a loser I was. Sadly, I believed them when they said I was fat, ugly, worthless, and not worthy of being loved.
The truth is what other people say to you or about you isn’t nearly as important as what you say to and about yourself. It has been a long, difficult process. I started by trying to compliment myself more. I worked on trying to forgive myself for past mistakes. To let myself be less than perfect. Even recognizing that this is an essential part of my journey, I find I have to re-learn this lesson over and over.
Despite my best intentions, these “mean girls” still come out from time to time. When I choose to veg out on Netflix rather than get my workout in, for example. Or when I backslide on my food plan, treating myself to something “off limits.” It takes a lot of work and effort to quiet their shrill voices.
I find that I’m most successful when I try to imagine what I would say to my daughter, my sister, or my mother, and then say that to myself. But why do I find it so hard to be nice to myself?
I’m not sure when it happened. I hated running. I always hated running. Didn’t I?
It was kind of a gradual thing for me. It evolved over time. Now I really love running. I really would rather run than walk most of the time. I like the feeling of pushing myself, and the little adrenaline rush I get from running. I actually even like the sweating. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. I also feel empowered by running. Like I’m getting stronger with each step, even when I’m tired or in pain. It’s a rush.
The first thing that usually happens when I tell someone that I run or about a run is that they tell me why they can’t run. “I wish I could run but…” sentences. Here’s the thing, me telling you about my run doesn’t mean I want you to join my running cult (and, yes, it is a cult). I really just want you to find your own joy.
Running means getting back that feeling you had when you were a little kid, and it was just about the wind rushing against you. I only get that feeling about 5% of the time but I live for that.
I’m also really getting into yoga. At first it was because a running podcast suggested that runners who do yoga once or twice a week can improve their performance, but now I really love going to yoga class. Unlike running, where I think every single step (sometimes composing these blog posts), yoga pulls me outside myself. I focus on breathing and stretching and trying not to fall over. (I really do kind of suck at it).
If I had any words of advice for anyone trying to learn to love themselves is find something that you love that gets you moving. It doesn’t have to be running or yoga. It could be dancing, weight-lifting, walking, biking, swimming, or anything. As long as it give you joy. That is the only exercise worth doing.
I am almost 50 (37 weeks shy, to be exact) And here I am training for a half marathon. What if I get sick? What if I get hurt?
One thing I needed to learn (and I keep having to relearn, because, hey, I’m a slow learner) is that you can’t help yourself if you hurt yourself. Negative self-talk is one way to hurt yourself emotionally, but in this instance I’m talking about physically getting hurt. Sometimes you can’t help it (a car comes out of nowhere or you get sick or you trip on your own feet), but many times injuries are a function of overdoing it. Running too much and not taking rest days. Running in the dark. Running on unmarked trails in the woods. (FYI: I’m completely guilty of doing all of these, even though I know better.)
When I had my serious operation almost two years ago (which eventually became the catalyst to my transformation) I let myself heal slowly. I did a little bit more every day and worked my way back to health. It was a good plan.
If I got sick like that today I would have a much harder time being patient. I would want to rush my recovery (I see this every time I get sick) But time and again my experience has shown me that long-term results depend on short-term patience. And listening to your body. When something hurts, aches, or twinges – do something: Rest it, ice it, heat it, or get it treated!
My new rule is “If my mom or daughter told me these symptoms, what would I tell them to do.” And then I do that. Because I know I would give them the best care possible and the best advice possible. And I deserve just as much.
It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.
Come on. We’ve heard that one before. I insist that my eating plan is not a diet, but many people argue with me that it is. In some ways my food plan is much more restrictive than any diet I’ve ever been on. In other ways it is so much more freeing for me than any plan. If you are interested in the origins of my “cold-turkey” food plan or want more details about what I eat, you can check out the links.
The point is that my plan is about how I feel about food, not how much weight I lose. If I never lose another pound, I would stick to this plan the rest of my life because it feels good.
Through trial and error I found foods that nourish my body well, and when my body is well nourished I don’t have food cravings. Also, I can do wonderful things with my body, like run thousands of miles or walk millions of steps.
Nourishing my body means:
- Feeding it regularly and never starving myself. No matter how much I ate yesterday, I’m not going to make up for it by not eating today.
- Feeding it real, whole foods always. Nothing with preservatives or artificial crap. Organic when I can.
- Feeding it nutrients it needs. Getting over my aversion to fats (I cook with olive oil). I eat whole grains. Plenty of protein and all the food groups.
- Not feeding it trigger foods. For me that means no wheat. No bread, no pasta, no cereal. Those foods cause me to want to eat more and I lose control.
When I do all of this, I find it is much easier to stick to my plan, feel good about myself, and not feel deprived. Food cravings are the worst thing about dieting. I will do anything to avoid those.
Note: I am not a nutritionist, doctor, or psychologist. Everything on this site is based on my personal experience and research and is my own opinion, not fact. My words should not be a substitute for your own research and experience and should never, ever take place of the advice of a professional.
I used to only look in the mirror to do a cursory check. Is my hair brushed? Is there anything in my teeth? Are all necessary parts covered? I didn’t like looking at myself because the mirror meant seeing what I wasn’t, not what I was.
One thing I’ve learned recently is that if you want to learn to love your body, you have to start by looking at it — I mean spend some time really looking. The more you look, the more you can find what you love about yourself. When I first started I only looked at the parts I liked – my hair, my eyes, my calves…
But over time I found that there was beauty everywhere: In my scars, my stretch marks, the fine lines forming around my eyes. Even in the flap of skin that hangs over my stomach. Even my birthmark. I needed to learn to fall in love with myself, and that started with taking time to look.
Like a self-esteem version of the John Legend song that goes:
In the Harry Potter books we learn that the happiest person in the world would look in the Mirror of Erised and see a reflection of them, exactly as they were.
‘Cause all of me- Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
(Listen to my daughter cover this song here)
Someone said to me recently that I look in mirrors a lot more now that I’ve lost so much weight, but the truth is they have that completely backwards; I started looking into mirrors more and that helped me get to a point where I could lose weight. The cart can’t come before the horse.
Before I could even begin working on changing any part of myself, I learned that I had to love the person I already was. That meant learning to love my fat. Nothing else has been so important nor so difficult. I started reading a lot of fat acceptance blogs and looking for motivation and inspiration from activists like Jess Baker and Ragen Chastain. Also people IRL, like my sister Nuchtchas, who is who she is every day.
A few things I’ve learned about fatness and being fat. First, fat isn’t a four letter word. It isn’t something ugly to be hidden under oversized, tent shaped tops. It can be beautiful, sexy, and brave. It can even be healthy.
The worst thing I have ever done is to try to not be fat. I’ve risked my health, my happiness, and my sanity trying to be not fat. I’ve tried diets, pills, any crazy idea that I thought might work. Some did (briefly) but weren’t sustainable. Others made things worse. None made me happy.
In fact, even when I lost weight I realized that being not-fat didn’t change who I was. I’m still me and at any weight, I’m still fat.
So now I embrace myself as a fat person. Regardless of my weight or the size pants I wear, I am a fat person and will always be a fat person. Once I own it, and can embrace it, I can move on. This is the heart of my self-acceptance program (and I’m still working on it) that allows me to be a better, richer, fuller me.