DOING THE RIGHT THING, RIGHT NOW
It hit me while I was eating lunch the other day. I was sitting there looking at what I’d ordered – a double cheeseburger with pastrami, a large order of onion rings and a diet soft drink – and I wondered if anyone else could see the inconsistency in front of me. I’m about to consume about 23 bazillion grams of fat, and then I’m going to wash it down with a diet soda.
What can I say? I’m trying to lose some weight.
Unfortunately, I do stuff like that all the time, which is probably why the pounds are coming off slowly. VERY slowly. In fact, the rate at which I’m losing weight is so slow and gradual that I’m actually gaining weight (hey, if elected officials can play numbers games with the national debt, I can do it with my weight). I spend a half-hour on the treadmill and I reward myself with nachos. I decide to eliminate seconds, so I help myself to firsts that could feed a small Caribbean nation. I make it all the way through the entire day doing everything absolutely right, and then at bed time “just one chip won’t hurt” turns into “where the heck did that entire bag of potato chips go?”
Think of it as negative weight loss. And don’t tell Richard Simmons.
Of course, there have been times when I’ve done pretty well with my weight loss program. During one stretch I put together almost two full weeks of eating moderately and exercising regularly. I was starting to feel a difference. My clothes fit more comfortably. I could bend over to tie my shoes more easily. And I could make it all the way to the top of the stairs without having to sit down to catch my breath. I don’t think anyone else could see the difference, but it didn’t really matter because I felt better – and I felt better about myself.
But just as my new-found discipline was about to become a habit, I entered a period of long, late nights filled with demanding deadlines. I sat in front of my word processor until the early hours of morning after morning, munching on snacks and guzzling caffeinated soda to help me stay awake. Within a few days, the habit of sensible eating and exercise was a memory.
Unfortunate, but understandable. I was too tired to get on the treadmill. And besides, I didn’t have time. I had work to do, for which I needed all the energy I could conserve – not to mention the energy I could extract from all the treats and snacks I could get my hands on.
So I started skipping exercise sessions. And once I started skipping them, they became easier to skip. Eventually it didn’t even occur to me to exercise anymore – at least, not until morning, when I was struggling to put on those clothes that suddenly must have shrunk. I vowed to return to my healthful ways immediately. That night, if possible – unless I had something else to do, in which case I would start the next night. Or the next. Or . . . whenever.
And have you ever noticed how infrequently “whenever” rolls around?
There are always reasons not to do the things that we really should do. Seatbelts are uncomfortable. Voting can be inconvenient. Donating to charity can be expensive, especially when things are so tight. It can be awfully hard to find time to coach your child’s soccer team. Understandable reasons, one and all – until you actually need that seat belt, or your candidate needs your vote, or the charity needs your dollar, or your child needs your time. Then every reason is just another excuse. And what good are excuses when your pants are too tight?
A wise woman once told me that success comes in doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. And usually, it needs to be done right now. So if you’ll excuse me, I have an important date with that treadmill downstairs.
~ © Joseph B. Walker
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Christmas on Mill Street