Due to the pandemic, my regular source of exercise — fencing — hasn’t been available for 10 months now.
The type of fencing I do — medieval rapier combat — is intense, a great cardio workout, and a fantastic discipline for the mind. I would attend practices anywhere from one to three days a week.
That’s not happening due to COVID-19. Because my normal exercise routine is missing — and other stressors of the past 10 months — I have gained about 30 pounds. I am presently the heaviest I have ever been in my life.
I have a choice in front of me. Several, in fact. Get upset; start blaming this, that, or the other thing; allow this to depress me further and keep adding to my weight; accept that it’s happened and work to reverse it.
Here’s the thing, though. This will not be a quick fix. Nor will it be done in only a few days and weeks. This is going to take time, effort, and focus if I desire to undo the damage.
It took 10 months to get here. It will take — with effort and focus — at least 5 months to change it.
AND — since I was overweight to begin with — another 5 months to get to where I desire to be.
Thus, I need to be honest with myself here — a year. It’s going to take me a year to get back and then improve upon my weight and fitness.
There is NO quick fix
Like you, I live in this instant gratification, quick fix, now isn’t soon enough society. I want to get this done as quickly as possible. A year? Really? It’s going to take that long?
How long did it take me to get here with ZERO effort? Ten months. Before that? YEARS. With concentrated effort, however, I can halve the recovery time — and take that further. Realistically, I can take the necessary steps to get myself back into shape and improve on where I began.
But it will take TIME. And I will need to be patient.
If you know me, you know that while I’m calm, Zen, and fairly chill overall — I still lack patience. I’ve gotten lots better over the years — but still desire to push it faster, get it done sooner, and have results as soon as possible. A year is a long time.
But relative to how long it took to get here? That’s nothing. Where I began 10 months ago — about 50 pounds overweight — took me YEARS to reach. Decades. Putting on another 30 pounds in 10 months was fast. But allowing myself a year to take off 60 pounds is not unreasonable in the slightest.
It’s just 5 pounds a month.
And that’s why chunking it down (see what I did there?) is so important.
You can do anything in smaller chunks
Some people look at the Big Picture and get overwhelmed. This applies to almost everything you can think of in this life.
Writing a whole novel can be a daunting task. Losing 60–80 pounds of weight looks foreboding. Driving from New York City to Los Angeles is a long journey.
But when you chunk it down into smaller bits, it’s not quite so intimidating. Rather than focusing on writing the novel — work to write 1500 words a day. Don’t look at shedding 60–80 pounds — instead see it as losing 5.5 pounds a month — or — a pound or two a week. Don’t look from NYC to LA total — break it down into 8-hour a day drives.
The big picture is called the big picture because it’s big. No shit, right? Yet, how often does that big picture hold you back? How often does that big picture appear to be too much and overwhelming? When you chunk it down to a more reasonable picture it’s far less scary.
When it took you time to get where you are now, it will take time to get somewhere new. Accepting that in the face of our nothing-is-fast-enough society is a matter of attitude, mindset, and approach.
You can this. It requires mindfulness, accountability, and acceptance to move forward.
Mindfulness and accountability
Mindfulness is your conscious awareness of the now. That’s how I can see that I have gotten to where I am — how long it took to get here — and what it will take to change it.
On the surface, mindfulness is awareness of your thoughts, feelings, actions, and intentions. By being aware you open yourself to being accountable. What does that mean? It means when you do feel, think, or act on something you take responsibility for it.
When I choose to eat the bacon cheeseburger — rather than something healthier — I can’t blame someone else for making me eat it. I thought about it, I felt what it would be like to enjoy it, and then I consumed it. Nobody held a gun to my head and made me make this choice. I did it. That’s accountability.
It goes further when I recognize that if I eat that bacon cheeseburger at this meal, I should choose something healthier next meal. I also should exercise to work to burn off some of those calories I took in. Nobody else is going to do this for me because nobody else CAN. And recognizing this is mindfulness.
If I eat bacon and eggs at breakfast, pizza at lunch, and a bacon cheeseburger and fries for dinner — and do ZERO exercise — when I gain weight there’s nobody to blame but me. If I choose instead to be mindful and make better choices — and be more accountable — that’s the start of the work that needs to be done to move onwards and forwards.
This is why recognizing that it took more than a day to get where I am — and it will take time to change — is so very important.
Choices and decisions
I put on 30 pounds over the past 10 months because I either made subconscious, half-conscious, unconscious choices and decisions — or — made conscious choices without giving a rat’s ass about consequences.
Practicing mindfulness and accountability is the making of conscious choices with an eye to consequences and impacts. When I choose not to exercise and eat heavily processed foods the consequence will be adding weight. Instead, when I choose to exercise and eat more mindfully, I can maintain and subtract the weight.
BUT — most of all — I need to remember this will take time. It took months to get here — it will take months to get there. Fewer months, with focus and direction — but months none-the-less.
THEN, once I get there — I need to take what I have learned along the way and keep applying it. The mistake I’ve made too frequently has been to reach the top of the mountain, celebrate it — then ignore that — hey, there’s another mountain I’d like to scale. Or worse — this was A peak, not THE peak.
Onwards and upwards and grow — or stay there and shrink. Or worse — go back down rather than keep climbing.
There is nobody else responsible for any of my gains or losses but me. It took more than a day to get to point ‘a’ and will take more than a day to reach point ‘b’, too. By breaking it down into smaller chunks it’s a lot easier to work on and with.
Thus, I am focusing on and tracking the smaller chunks. Writing 1500 words a day of fiction. Reading a chapter of fiction and a chapter of nonfiction daily. Meditating daily. Walking or getting on the exercise bike every day. Shedding 1–2 pounds per week.
One last, super-important note:
Don’t beat yourself up for the past
Yes, over the 10 months I’ve not been fencing I could have been more conscious of my diet and exercise than I was. And, frankly, for the last couple of years before that, too. There were things I should have done differently than I did.
Now — I can get angry, sullen, and pissed-off at myself for my various and sundry fuck ups along the way — or — recognize them, acknowledge them, and let them go. Guess what the best choice for this is?
The past has passed. It’s done, over, and can’t be undone. All I can do is be present in the here and now — and mindful — and make new choices and decisions from HERE. Beating myself up for the past is pointless and counterproductive.
Today is a new day. I am recognizing and acknowledging where I am now. From here, I see where I desire to go. Since I can do nothing about where I have been BUT learn from it — there’s no point in beating myself up/berating myself/tearing out my hair and crying over it. I can be mindful of where I am now and in small increments work to go where I desire to ultimately BE.
Now — to action. I must be patient, calm, and focused — AND — allow that this will take time. But when I do this — I can do this. Small, bite-sized chunks — mindfully chewed and swallowed — is the key.
Since it takes more than a day — today is the best day to begin.