Everyday there are a million little things pulling us in a million different directions. There are work obligations, family obligations and social obligations. Some are large: show up to work, remember to take the kids to school, make sure everyone has food.
Some are smaller in scope: make sure to bring the trash can in after it’s been emptied so it doesn’t accidentally block traffic by rolling into the road way (we live on a hill), check in with Aunt Mary after knee surgery to make sure she isn’t going stir crazy and threatening the game show hosts because she thinks her answers are better then theirs, walk the dog.
Whatever is on your list large or small, temporary or permanent has to be checked off the list. It needs to be completed so a domino effect doesn’t cause an inadvertent wave of destruction. Adding one more thing, especially one that is for your own benefit is really hard.
Working out to lose weight is something you are doing for you. I know none of us live in a vacuum and our lives, even our personal choices, affect those around us. A healthier us can take care of more people, set better examples and live longer, better lives which we share with our loved ones. Being the healthiest you that you can be has a generally positive effect on those in your world.
Getting there however, requires a bit of selfishness.
It feels wrong.
Lets face it, spending half an hour (or however long you go) on a treadmill when you have a million other things (most of which impact others directly in some way) to do feels wrong. We are taught that selfishness is wrong. But truthfully, it is one of the key elements to getting yourself through a large weight loss.
I know this was very rough for me to learn, so I started small. In the very beginning, I gave myself fifteen minutes on the treadmill on Monday morning. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but stay with me. Fifteen minutes every Monday for a month. I set a time and refused to let that time change. (I also set it at a time when there was little likelihood of an emergency arising, there is no use sabotaging yourself at the starting line).
I also set myself a mental exercise to work through while I did my fifteen minutes. They weren’t massive brain teasers though, I started simple. Did I want to make chicken Monday night or save the chicken for Thursday? What calls did I have to make as soon as I stopped sweating? When was my last oil change? Did I need to add that to the weekly schedule or could that wait a while longer? It was something small, something to think about so I didn’t feel like I was wasting time on myself.
You know what?
The world didn’t end.
So I expanded. In addition to my fifteen minutes on Monday, I did fifteen minutes on Wednesday as well. Then I went to three days. Once at three days, I started adding time. Fifteen minutes of me time didn’t end the world, surely another five minutes wouldn’t be noticable.
I’m sure you see where this is going.
I ended up with forty-five minute blocks of exercise time. Most days I have two blocks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The reason for the time is that it takes forty-five minutes to do a circuit on my walking trail, in case you are wondering.
Along the way I set myself thornier problems to mentally work through, mostly work and scheduling related to be honest. I came to see this time as necessary breaks away from my computer and my self assigned chores list. And yes, my productivity went up with work, I felt better and was able to give back more to those around me. All of the non-selfish reasons we all say we are getting healthy to achieve were in their own ways true. But at the core is that selfishness.
If you don’t give yourself that time, allow yourself to take that time from working on everyone else, you won’t get to that giving back more phase. In this instance, you have to be selfish. Especially in the beginning when the benefits to others are far in the future. Initially, you will be sore and tired and less use to others than usual.
If you are anything like me, you will also use the long to do list in the back of your head to offer justifications for quitting once your body starts to react to the new movements you are putting it through. At my starting weight (246 lbs) my body didn’t want to move at all and resented me for thinking it did. I’m pretty sure my muscles started to ache when I glanced casually in the treadmill’s direction.
Knowing that you could do something good for someone right then instead of doing nebulous good sometime in the future makes you want to quit. It is a really good justification to quit. This is where in addition to guarding your time, you have to admit that you are doing this for yourself as well. Mixing a little ‘I’ into your routine doesn’t hurt.
I want to take pressure off of my knees and feet so they don’t hurt soon after I get up in the morning. I want to eliminate any clothing item bearing a XXXL tag on it from my closet. I don’t want to get out of breath while grocery shopping.
Whatever you ‘I’ is, add it here to keep you motivated. It can be large or small. In fact I recommend a mix of them both. The small ones don’t take too long to achieve. Once my body adjusted to moving again, the initial few pounds of weight loss helped my feet not hurt as much. These small victories not only make you feel like you are still doing a good thing (thus counteracting any guilt over your own selfishness) but it make the larger wants seem more attainable.
Starting your I want list with something like ‘to climb Mt. Everest’ can be discouraging if you are still hobbling from the bed to the bathroom in the morning. Mix in small, medium and larger goals to get that achievable feel and make your larger goals seem less like pipe dreams. And at this phase, unless you have specific travel plans or are starting from a much higher fitness level than I was, I’d recommend nixing the climbing Mt. Everest and add in a local marathon instead. Or something else that doesn’t require a passport and a Sherpa.
If it still feels too selfish, add in family bits as well. Remind yourself of what the benefits will be even if you are having to take time from other things for this. Just remember:
This is your time to selfishly focus on you.
It is not wrong.
The world will not end.
Those in your world will ultimately benefit from it.
Remember, that in the end, your selfishness in working to become a healthier you, whatever that entails, isn’t really as selfish as you think it is.