At FitMetabolism we understand the importance of support in a wellness journey. That’s why a big part of our program is ongoing coaching. We don’t just give you a plan and expect you to follow it. We know that the most important part of a plan is discovering the reasons why you don’t follow it–the reasons why it doesn’t work in your life.
Another aspect of the support we provide is a discussion group that meets every second week on Thursday evenings. We know, based on research, that you are more likely to succeed if you set out on a wellness journey with others. Last Thursday, we planned to discuss the topic “Getting back on track for spring.” I started out by apologizing for the wording of the topic. When you first hear it, it sounds fine—typical, in fact–but therein lies the problem. “Typical” weight-loss strategies do not work. As worded, our topic implied that you can be “on track” or “off track” in your wellness journey, and that comes dangerously close to the “all-or-nothing” mindset that many dieters hold.
Picture this: You’ve worked hard all week, made great choices, exercised, and then Friday night rolls around and instead of going home as planned, you end up at the local pub for wing night. You enjoy a few wings and a beer with friends and then the inner chatter begins: “You’ve ruined everything! You’ve blown it! Why even bother trying now? You may as well just have a full plate of wings and three more beer and dessert and then go to brunch tomorrow.” Sound familiar? This is all-or-nothing thinking at its finest. We think that if we can’t be perfect, then we are failing.
Believe it or not, the problem here is not the wings and one beer. It’s where the mind went afterward. Aiming for perfection is like being on a hamster wheel that you can never get off. Perfection does not exist, and yet we can chase it all day long! There is no “off track” or “on track.” It is a journey–not a destination–and part of this journey is learning what works and what doesn’t.
In clarifying the wording of the topic to the group, I suggested that they might use the following metaphor. Imagine you are in a boat on the ocean. When you look in the distance you can see a lighthouse, and it is the lighthouse that guides you. It will help keep you on your course, and will prevent you from hitting the rocks near the shore. There is no one path to the shore, but if you keep the lighthouse in your sights, you will eventually get to where you are headed. Often times when things get difficult and the sea is choppy, you will put your head down and really have to work hard to keep the boat afloat. When the sea calms again, as it inevitably does, you may look up and find that the lighthouse is off to the side instead of right in front of you. Then all you have to do is gently redirect the boat, and you will find that you are right back where you need to be.
Within the context of this metaphor, the full plate of wings and all the beer would be like finding your boat a little off course and then jumping overboard because “you ruined it!” By jumping overboard, however, you guarantee that you will never get to the shore.
So remember: There is no on or off, only engaged and not engaged. You were still engaged at wing night right up until the point when you gave in to the inner chatter. Engagement means course correcting when you need to and staying curious about what things are effective in your life and what things need some re-strategizing.
Engagement does not equal perfection. Which is something to think about the next time you find yourself at wing night or any other unplanned social activity. Stay engaged in the process! No one expects you to be perfect! In fact, it is often our own perfection seeking that keeps us from getting to the shore.