The pharmacy where I worked as a teenager had a sign in the back displaying the store’s hours of operation. You’ve probably seen it in other businesses as well:
“We’re open most days around 9 or 10. Occasionally as early as 7, but sometimes as late as 11 or 12. We’re closed around 5:30 or 6. Occasionally as early as 4, but sometimes as late as 11 or 12.”
It goes on with more exceptions to the rule, and it always gets a chuckle. It also sounds a lot like me when someone asks me whether their weight loss plans will work. Reducing calories and increasing exercise should work, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you lose weight at first and then stop losing weight. Sometimes you do everything “right” but some other medical condition is causing a plateau. Sometimes you and your friend do the same things, and one experiences results when the other doesn’t. The reason is because losing weight is more of an art than a science.
Science is exacting. It is either right or wrong, and can almost always be explained with facts, data, and reason. Science is using a food scale to measure your portions so you know exactly how many calories you are eating each day. There is a definite element of science in how we manage our health, especially when numbers like cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar need to be monitored. Science allows us to know statistics like how losing 10 percent of your body weight can reduce risk factors for heart disease, or whether you need insulin. Science plays a role.
Art, on the other hand, is open to interpretation. The same piece of art can be seen differently by different people, just as a size 10 on one person feels as comfortable and manageable as a size 4 on someone else. Art is connected to our own personal values, and when health is art, we are able to create a picture of what balance means for us. Health as art is about quality rather than quantity and knowing that maintaining healthy habits will result in healthy returns, even if the numbers don’t always add up. Art makes us whole.
Science plays a role and art makes us whole. The truth is, we need a little of both to make magic happen in the world of weight loss. Consider these balance points as you work on your goals of achieving a healthy weight.
Balance calories with consistency
I’ve been maintaining my current weight for about five years now, but I still weigh my portions most of the time. Calorie management is a big part of weight loss, and attention to the details can make the difference between losing weight and maintaining. But what’s more important than the everyday ratio of calories in versus calories out is the consistent pattern of a deficit over time. It’s just like watching the Stock Market or investing for retirement; it’s performance over the long haul that matters.
Balance your weight with your waist
The science of weight loss tells us that 3,500 calories is equal to a pound of fat. So, using 3,500 calories through exercise and reduced calories should equal a pound of fat lost...right? Yes, it should. Except when it doesn’t, which is usually about a week before you need to fit into a bridesmaid dress or rented tuxedo. Relax. There is so much going on inside your body that can make those three little numbers on the scale go haywire. Medications, not drinking enough water, your current hormonal state, the workout you just returned from, and what you ate for dinner last night will all factor into the number that shows up on that scale. Your body is a living thing that in flux all day long. Put the scale away and focus on the waistband of your jeans instead. If it’s changing, so are you, regardless of what that hunk of metal and plastic tells you.
Balance perfection with progress
One of my favorite things to do is read stories of people who faced immense odds or setbacks and figured out a way to climb out, sometimes to epic levels of triumph. I often refer to these stories when someone is stuck in the muck of imperfection, thinking they are never going to make progress because every day, something happens to push them back. That, my friends, is called life. Success is not found in everything going according to plan, but in finding a way to move forward despite setbacks. I am going to say this part really loud: you do not have to get it right, you just have to get it going!
The truth is that weight loss is not just a numbers game, and it’s also not as easy as just making better choices. It takes a combination of science and art to make progress in changing our health, especially when the canvas is an ever-changing living thing that sometimes plays by its own rules.
So, relax. You got this. Enjoy those days when it all comes together and you knock it out of the park. Balance them with the days when you have to really focus to make any ground. If you are consistent, your success story may very well become a work of art.
Last weekend a friend of mine hosted a vision board retreat, and since I was overdue for some purpose and structure in my life, it was perfect timing for me to do some planning. Now, I have a good bit of experience with vision boards, so I went in prepared to get myself organized, make some concrete business planning goals, set some smart goals, and kick myself into gear. I was pumped!
That afternoon I left with a big poster board covered with images and words that were nothing that I expected. I had not done any concrete business planning and I didn’t feel much more organized, but I was definitely in gear. The direction I was heading, though, was unexpected.
One of the defining elements of my vision board was this quote by Oprah Winfrey: “The real point of being alive is to evolve into the whole person you were intended to be.” I liked it, so I tacked it up. Then, a few days later I walked past my vision board, propped up on the mirror above my dresser, and the word, “evolve” jumped out at me. Hmph, I thought. Who has time to evolve? I want things to be the way I want them now! But I knew that word was important, so I got a pen and I circled it.
When I sat at my computer, I looked up the definition of the word evolve, and smirked when I saw that the Latin root is evolvere, which means, “to unroll.” Of course. Yes, it was starting to make sense now.
In a world that promises results in 90 days and praises overnight success stories, waiting around to evolve into the person you were intended to be seems like sitting on the sidelines. We’re supposed to make it happen! Just do it! Be the change you want to see in the word! Carpe diem…and hurry! We want to force change to happen in our lives, so we keep shoving it into place, as if we are trimming the ends of the puzzle pieces of life so they fit together into something that kind of feels like it might stay that way, as long as no one touches it. But then it buckles and warps, and the pieces come apart, and we know we should have slowed down and done things correctly. We should have let it unroll.
When something evolves, it changes. It grows, morphs, adapts, streamlines…it becomes something new by nature of what it has experienced. We can’t rush evolution; it has to happen on its own. Creating change in our lives, especially in how we manage our health and well-being, is the same way. Although it can seem overwhelming to think about changing the course of our lives and everything that entails, it is really can be as calm and steady as allowing ourselves to unroll.
So that’s my big health advice for this week. Just sit there and allow yourself to evolve into the person you were meant to be. Pretty easy, right? No, we are called to find the balance between forcing change and surrendering to it. I’ve begun referring to this as my proactive, responsive steps.
Be Proactive About Change. I believe that evolution favors the proactive: those who are willing participants in the process of being changed, and open to the possibility that rolling with change could very well send you in a direction that was better than you what planned for yourself. Create a vision for how you want to live your life and manage your health, set your course for that destination, and launch that ship, friend. Go for it. But don’t forget the next step.
Respond. This is the key element of evolving into the person you were intended to be: notice when you have to keep shoving those pieces back in place, and respond to that. If sticking to your charted course requires a rigid lifestyle that can’t be maintained without constant attention, there’s a good chance that you’re headed in the wrong direction. Healthy changes aren’t always easy, but they are absolutely attainable and shouldn’t require much forcing. Pay attention, and respond.
Take the Steps. The balance between being proactive and responsive is in partnership. It may not be realistic or practical to change all of your habits at once in pursuit of a healthier life, but taking the first step is. Relax. Don’t rush this. Just make the next step. Allow yourself to unroll, and evolve, into the person you are intended to be by taking the next positive step towards your goal.
Honestly, I don’t know if evolving into the person you were intended to be really is the point of being alive. I think the point of life may be a little bit bigger than that. But in a world that rushes and pushes and forces change, perhaps those who take those quiet, proactive, responsive steps will be the ones who survive to find out.
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!