It’s been a somewhat unremarkable week for us. Nothing of note has happened at work. Justin had an exam on Wednesday and a paper due on Friday, so he spent a lot of time studying. Our evenings were pretty quiet.
But I’m trying to get back to writing more regularly. So I’m going to write about something that’s been helpful for me as I’ve been working on losing weight. I feel like some of this might be stuff I’ve talked about before, but maybe it’s just because it’s been on my mind a lot. Also, this post got a lot longer than I originally thought it would.
I know, I said I don’t really want to talk about my weight-loss much just yet. But when I was starting it up again, I was thinking about my failures and successes in the past and what they had in common and how I approach the whole thing. At the same time, I was reviewing our progress on our debt payments and how long it’s likely to take before we’ll be done with the credit card debt. It’s going quite well, though not as well as we’d been hoping last January. We had a more expensive 2015 than we’d hoped.
I think most of us have been working on that specific problem lately – paying off debts, working on emergency funds, all of those wonderful things. I think a lot of people have a hard time separating emotions from the picture when it comes to money. I don’t seem to have that problem much, it’s mostly just a math puzzle, and a tricky one at that because I’m not very good at math. But when Justin and I talk about it, we have to be able to discuss calmly the opinions we have about certain things, like whether or not purchases are wants vs. needs, if it’s a want that we’ll not be likely to find as cheaply as this particular sale and if that’s worth the extra debt, if going without something is an inconvenience that we’re willing to put up with for a short time in order to avoid more expense, that sort of thing.
Point being, the emotions behind it never seem to go anywhere near thinking about our debt as being a reflection on my worth as a person. It’s not personal. It wasn’t the smartest thing ever, but we’re learning from our mistakes and moving on. The closest it got to being personal was thinking that I’d just been kind of dumb about handing my resources.
My weight, however? For a long time, I considered it to be a personal failing. It was evidence of my sinful behavior. If I’d not been so gluttonous, I’d not eat so much. If I wasn’t so slothful, I’d exercise more. If I had more self-control, etc., etc. So losing weight was fighting against myself and my sinfulness. If I didn’t like the exercise, I was fighting my sloth and it had to be good for me. Restricting my diet was fighting my gluttony and managing self-control. If I slipped, I failed to fight my sin.
Not to say that skinny people are without sin. But I think I figured most of it would have to do with vanity.
I’m not really sure when I started to be able to separate the two, but I know that I have been able to be happy with myself regardless of my weight and not feel like a big fatty failure who sins. I’ve even considered myself to be pretty, even at 250 pounds. I wish I could pinpoint when and why that changed, but I have no idea. I do know that it did change, though.
When I was thinking about financial debt and appropriate use of resources, though, it occurred to me that a lot of the mentality that I’d been using to work on our debt would apply easily to trying to lose weight. What if I was able to separate my emotions from what got me to this point and focus on the same ideas that have worked well with my finances?
Instead of dollars, it’s calories. Instead of losing debt and gaining savings, I’m losing weight and gaining strength.
It takes specific concentration, every day, about how to spend or save the money available in order to be able to achieve specific goals. That same concentration can be applied to making sure that the calories I intake are not more than the calories I’m burning.
The same idea of setting wants aside in order to focus on the needs lets me look at a piece of cake and consider whether I’d rather have a couple minutes of sweet delicious empty calories or the lentil soup and small wedge of cheese for my lunch that will sustain me for longer without the sugar crash, and without the need to exercise for a lot longer in the afternoon. The satisfaction of feeling like I achieved something by passing on the cake is just an extra bonus.
And it’s a balance – I can’t stop paying rent and put all the money into debt payments; I can’t stop eating entirely in order to try to lose weight more quickly. But I can adjust the thermostat to cost less energy and just be a little uncomfortable (until I adjust), and I can eat less food and be a little uncomfortable (until I adjust) in order to lose weight.
Slipping now and then isn’t such a big deal, either. We really wanted to get me a nice pair of hiking boots this past summer, so we spent a lot of money on a great pair of boots. We looked at other budget categories we could pull other money from to pay for that and accepted that it’d just be an extra bit of work we’d have to put in to pay for those.
I really wanted some ice cream a couple days ago and it wasn’t really going to fit in the calories for my day. It wasn’t much out of my plan for the day, but it was a little over. And instead of passing on it and getting grumpy about it, I carefully measured out a serving size and enjoyed it thoroughly. And the next morning I got up and did a hard workout in order to pay for it, and made sure I was a little under my calories for the day.
Because when it comes down to it, my weight problem is primarily due to a poor use of resources. I’ve incurred more than I could afford, and now I have to pay for it. Over time, with perseverance and dedication, I will be able to resolve it. I can pay off thousands of dollars of debt. I can work off a handful of dozen pounds.
And thinking about it this was has helped me a lot. I don’t feel like I’m suffering or punishing myself. I’m just working to pay off another debt, and I’ve done that before.