“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the creator.” Colossians 3:9-10
Most mornings, I start breakfast and the coffee pot. Terry then comes downstairs and pours me a cup of coffee. Not only does he add the perfect amount of cream, but he also selects a different mug each morning to delight me. Some mornings I get the salmon-colored mug that declares “Good Morning Gorgeous”, while other mornings I might get my Rifle bibliophile cup with the gold handle. If it’s a cold morning, he might reach for my blue stoneware mug from Laurel, Mississippi and if he’s feeling especially formal, he’ll reach for my pink First Lady cup from the Smithsonian. I love the routine of coffee every morning but enjoy the spontaneous choices of mug from which to sip my happy juice. And, for those of you who are Marie Kondo enthusiasts, yes, all my mugs spark joy!
I think having a routine but balancing it with the ability to mix things up are good principles to live by. If your routine is too rigid, you might find yourself unable to adapt to the inevitable changes in life. If you constantly live by spontaneous behavior, you might miss the long-term benefits of consistent habits. By nature, we all lean towards one side or the other, but in practice, its important to find the balance that works for you.
For almost two years, I had developed consistent habits with exercise. I was going to the gym five to six mornings a week, working both with weights and cardio. I enjoyed this routine and had gym friends that I talked to each morning. I loved the benefits of consistent exercise: weight loss, more strength, more flexibility, and extra energy.
But when the world shut down, so did my gym. I had to find a different way to exercise, so I started walking. I attempted to lift weights at home and do Pilates regularly, but the only thing that stuck consistently was the walking. Last year, I set a goal to walk 320 days. It was an ambitious goal that Covid-19, travel, and occasional bad weather prevented me from accomplishing. Overall, I walked 290 days averaging about three miles a day. This is more than I had ever walked in my entire adult life. The fresh air, exercise, and being out in nature was good for my mental health and helped me, for the most part, to maintain my weight loss.
I say for the most part because, in the last few months, I have realized my clothes are not fitting quite as well as they did in the past. I can see the difference in pictures and, more importantly, I can tell that my energy, strength, and flexibility have regressed a little. I could stubbornly try to continue the same practices of last year, walking outside, which I enjoyed. But, based on the evidence, I knew I needed to do something to jump start my body into getting fit again.
So, I joined the gym again. The first time I walked through the doors, I knew how I left the gym was not the same condition as I was returning. I knew that I couldn’t jump on the weight machines and do the same routine I was doing in the past. I knew that my endurance on the treadmill would be shorter and less intense. Without the right attitude, these facts could be a recipe for disaster. I had to walk into the gym with low expectations and determination.
I started this health journey about three and half years ago. And I use the word journey instead of goal for multiple reasons. Too often, I have set goals and not reached them. Instead, this time around I have taken the approach James Clear outlines in his book, “Atomic Habits”. He says, “True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement.” This journey has been about me creating healthy habits that would manifest themselves not only in weight loss but also in building strength, flexibility, and higher energy. It was about choosing to live, and uncovering, underneath all the layers of fat, a woman who was energetic, loved the outdoors and enjoyed physical activity. It was discovering that the space I took up in the room didn’t need to be measured by my circumference but what I had to offer in the gifts and talents God has given me. It was about surrendering all of me to God, and letting Him fill me, instead of filling myself with ice cream and bagels. And finally, it was letting Him lead me on this journey and giving me the strength to continue, pivot, and grow.
I know this journey has had its ups and downs. It hasn’t been a linear path from 361 pounds to the weight I am now. It has never been about the numbers, but about learning to trust God in the process. I haven’t completely conquered any of my past habits; they are still chasing me and sometimes I go back to eating out of anxiety or using food to find comfort. Sometimes, I honestly don’t care and want to eat the whole cheeseburger and fries. But whatever missteps I take, I show myself grace and move forward. Moving forward this time meant joining the gym and starting fresh.
I still have no final weight goal in mind. I want to feel healthy, be active and find all my fulfillment in the Lord. What that looks like in 2022 will be different than it was in 2021. I do know that, like my coffee in the morning, I will have some consistent habits but still mix it up occasionally like my mugs.