People tend to take stock at the end of the year, and I’m no different. Today I’m mulling over the transformative power of love as I look back at my efforts.
When things change incrementally, it can be difficult to take note of what has changed. For example—even though this is demonstrably and hysterically untrue—I feel more or less the same person as I was in high school. I’ll bet you do, too.
On the surface, this is a column about getting plenty of exercise, eating good nutritious food, and learning to live a healthy lifestyle after a decades of sedentary self-neglect. But underneath all of that, what I’ve been writing about is learning to love myself.
It is when I look at my efforts through that lens that they make the most sense, and it’s where I find my best motivation, too.
So, for instance, smoking. Examined through the lens of, “You can’t make me quit doing anything” (a perennial favorite for my recalcitrant inner self), that is perfectly true. I can’t make myself quit. But if I look at it in a different way, it leads to a different task. I have two grandsons. I want to be around when they are old enough to have children, or even grandchildren. I want to be able to chase them across a park, and to play basketball with them, and to dance with them in my bedroom. What seems like a throwaway act as a young person continues to stack its cumulative effects up in my body. To do the things I want to do, I must care for my body.
The same holds true with overeating. This morning I had a bear claw with my coffee, even though as a general matter I avoid white sugar and white flour. One bear claw will hardly make a ripple on the course of my lifetime. But small actions become habits, so at a minimum I need to pay attention to how often I eat a bear claw, what kinds of things make me want to eat a bear claw, and what is going through my mind when I purchase that bear claw and head out the door with it in my hot little hands.
As we come out of Thanksgiving and into the Christmas season—with its endless supply of cookies, whipped cream, hot cocoa, and all of the other treats we make by the barrel at this time of year—it’s easy to want to throw my hands in the air and declare a forfeit: “You win, cookies! I give, Hot Cocoa! Uncle, pie and whipped cream! I give up!”
I could beat myself up about it. I’m an expert on how to do that, having practiced pretty diligently for at least four decades, and realistically probably longer than that.
But today I’m writing about the power of loving myself, and that’s what all of this hullaballoo has been about in the end.
I love myself, and therefore I will keep on working toward my fitness goals.
I love myself, and so I will make an effort every day to eat nutritious food that’s good for me.
I love myself, and because of that when I fall down with my goals, I will get back up and keep going.
I love myself, and so when that harsh and critical voice does try to raise her head and give me a hard time, I will gently decline to listen, or to jump on the merry-go-round again. I already know where that ride goes.
To all of you on this journey, as I am, good work this year! I’ve followed you from afar, and sometimes from a-close. I read your blogs, looked at your photos, and cheered you on when you struggled. You inspire me with your stories every day, and you help me keep going when I want to quit.
And that, in the end, is the biggest act of self-love. I will not give up on myself or my health. I won’t stop working, trying, complaining, tweaking workouts, or experimenting.
One more note on the power of love, this one of a slightly different sort. I love competition, and I love to win. Last week my daughter made a steps challenge to me, as we both use the same fitness tracker and can see each other’s data.
She issued a one-day challenge which I didn’t see until it was over. I responded by challenging her to a week-long step count.
Funny thing happened. I saw her number last night and thought, “I could get a few more steps in.”
Today, she got an alert on her tracker telling her I was ahead on the step count. She shot me a message telling me to watch out, here she comes! That got my goat in the worst way—and next thing you know, we are both engaged and looking for ways to add steps. I’ve been on the treadmill three times today already.
And that loops me all the way back around to the very beginning of writing this column, when my whole entire strategy could be summed up by the phrase, “Have some fun.”