I would not consider myself a person who has great self-discipline.
The last time I can really remember having self-discipline was when I was in 6th grade and vowed to write in my journal every day for a year – and did it. That was kind of awhile ago.
More than anything, I’m pretty rules-driven or expectations-driven, so if someone tells me I’ll get in trouble if I do XYZ, I am going to stay the heck away from anything that looks like XYZ. On the other hand, behaviors like eating healthy or working out that aren’t driven by punishment but are driven by, you know, things like an increased risk of heart disease? Nah, I’m not all that motivated. Hence why I’ve worked the last 8 months or so on losing weight.
Science says that the hardest point in pursuing any goal is the halfway point. When you’re at the halfway point, you’ve got just as much behind you as you’ve got ahead of you, and quite frankly, it’s kind of depressing. You’re like, “I have to do what I just did AGAIN?”
This is precisely how I felt when I reached the halfway point of my weight loss a few months ago. Up until I hit 30 pounds, healthy living and I were in the honeymoon phase. I was excited to work out and I was so motivated that missing out on French fries and Dairy Queen Blizzards didn’t feel like missing out at all.
Once I hit 30, I thought I’d be on a high from my success and ready to tackle the next 30, but that wasn’t the case. 30 pounds down felt great, but 30 pounds to go…I was beginning to miss real bread and sleeping in instead of early-morning runs.
I hit a major slump.
There were definitely days where I fell off of my healthy eating plan, or days where I half-heartedly exercised or didn’t exercise at all. I struggled to regain my excitement about my goal. I knew that I wanted all 60 pounds gone, but I’d lost the spark to get there.
One morning this summer during my motivation slump, I remember rolling out of bed, walking into the kitchen, and grabbing my box of Cheerios from the cupboard. I carefully measured one cup of Cheerios into a measuring cup (a proper serving), dumped them into the bowl and topped them with exactly 1/4 cup of light vanilla soy milk.
As I sat there eating my perfectly portioned Cheerios, I realized how weird it was that despite the fact I was completely lacking motivation to keep pursuing my weight loss, my breakfast habit hadn’t changed. While I had no desire to eat Cheerios, and would have gladly accepted a maple doughnut from anyone who offered, I was eating Cheerios because I knew that’s what I had to.
Was this what self-discipline looked like?
After mulling this over for awhile, I’ve realized that one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through losing weight, besides the fact I AM capable of self-discipline, is that self-discipline is nothing more than teaching yourself to separate the desire to do something from the doing of it. Self-discipline isn’t magic; it’s a different way of thinking.
Before my halfway-point slump, I’d established habits: get up everyday and exercise, never drink soda, always request hamburgers without the buns, etc. When my slump took over and the warm, fuzzy feelings of ordering salads at restaurants left me, what remained were the rational habits I had created for myself. Even if my heart wasn’t always in it, my brain still was. I’d somehow figured out how to be disciplined.
After a weekend of enjoying delicious food in Denver and avoiding thinking about calorie counts and protein content, I’m trying to pump myself up for a new week of good choices and exercise. I can tell you one thing for sure – I’ll have Cheerios tomorrow for breakfast.