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The Switch: Better than losing weight

Posted Jan 25 2013 12:06pm
Path to happiness? Notsomuch.

The messages in our culture are pretty clear. When it comes to exercise, success = weight loss, and that's that ticket to happiness.

Women's magazines (all of 'em!), TV shows, motivational speakers and health clubs preach the same gospel. You need discipline and willpower to make regular exercise happen, and when it does, you'll lose weight and that will keep you on the straight and narrow.

Great theory. It works for some people for a while, but it's turning out to be a fail.

I know because I've lived it. Yes, that commitment-results-motivation formula works while everything is going well, but then life happens. A shift in the routine throws off your carefully balanced plan. A new job, a wedding, a new baby, a move to a new town, a divorce, an injury or even an illness can throw a wrench in the works, and it can be hard to find your way back to your groove.

I've gotten sucked into this thinking, too. For months, I've been frustrated by the fact that in spite of regular exercise, the needle on the scale hasn't moved a whole lot. Hot Husband is sooo sick of me asking what I'm doing wrong, what I need to change, and if he might possibly reassure me for the umpteenth time that yes, he sees changes in muscle tone that count as improvement.

The Switch
This week, I got broadsided with a reminder that other results are more valuable.

The details aren't important, but I will say that is was one of those situations where I made a big effort to make things possible for someone else, and I was stood up. No warning, no "I'm sorry," just nothing. And I was left holding the bag.

In the past, this would have triggered a blast of internal resentment, and after I didn't need to appear poised anymore, I would have gorged on licorice, potato chips or ice cream. Or I would have headed for a couple of glasses of wine to take the edge off.

This time was different. Sure, I felt the pangs of disappointment and panic. But as I took a couple of breaths, flipping through my head for an answer, one word spoke.

Yoga.

I smiled, thinking the lovely thought would pass when I made it to the privacy of my own pantry. But it didn't. I stood in the kitchen noticing that I wasn't scavenging for sugar. I wanted to come home.

The Switch had happened. My body wanted healing more than escapism. It knew what real power was.

I'm still as surprised as anyone by this turn of events, but I think I know what happened. Because I've been using micro workouts that are simple to do, easy to fit in my schedule and fill me with energy, my brain has adapted to the idea that I should go there when I'm stressed.

That night, I wasn't able to do yoga, but I did knock out a 20-minute kettlebell workout. I finished feeling strong and optimistic. My brain wasn't spinning to place blame, keep score or find solve this problem. I was confident that everything would work itself out, and I'd know what to do when the time came. I'll take that over a sugar coma any day.

I have this feeling that this success will lead to others. That's what momentum does, and it will bring me what I really need.
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