I Am That Girl Now

Monday, March 06, 2006

Glacial change will win every time

My Hub's ex-wife and I were chatting the other day (we're all still friends; long story) and I explained one of his more cryptic comments by revealing his new jogging thing.

Long pause. "Jogging?"


"You're kidding me."


"Good grief, what have you done to him?"


I have tried like crazy, throughout this whole health and fitness thing of mine, not to push rules on my Hub. I'm fine with him eating fried chicken and ice cream and drinking full-sugar soda. I was fine with him not exercising. It is absolutely, 100% his business... well, okay, it's my business, but it's his decision. I swore that I would not nag, and I would not force anything on him. When it comes to cooking, whatever I make has to be taste-friendly even if he's dubious about the ingredients (occasionally, as in the case of the cake made with sweet-potato puree, extremely dubious), because if he won't eat it, it really defeats the purpose of feeding him healthy things.

It helps that my Hub is a man of omnivorous tastes and an open mind. He'll give anything a chance, and if it tastes good, he'll accept it whole-heartedly. I've seen (and heard) him give the same amount of estatic attention to a juicy pear as to steak or bacon. He doesn't get hung up on brand names and he's been easy to convert to organic produce when he discovered that it was tastier than what we'd been getting from the regular supermarket. A real Renaissance man when it comes to food, my Hub.

Since I started the first phase of my healthy-living lifestyle, my Hub has slowly changed his cooking style and some of his food preferences. He's looked on it as a creative challenge, I think, but beyond that, I think that it's more a case of changing the local state of normalcy. Over time, it's become normal for us to have vegetables and fruit with our lunches. Over time, it's become normal to cook with very little oil. Over time, it's become normal for us to walk across the Loop as part of our morning and evening commute. Over time, it's become normal for us to take the stairs instead of the escalator. The thing I've noticed is that we're more likely to stick to something if it's the only new thing introduced at that time, and if it's a small change.

When I was first starting this blog, I had it in my mind that I was absolutely going to have to change everything about my life, and I was going to have to do it in a big hurry. I was half right. I am going to have to change everything about my life, but it's going to have to come step by step, and the main challenge isn't gritting my way through a thousand changes at once, but to keep up a continuing, long-term dedication toward the goal of a life where the normal state of things will keep me healthy.

In a weird way, keeping things going long-term, trusting myself to have a long-term when it comes to healthy living, is utterly terrifying. I have a long history of short-term attempts at diet and exercise. I had it figured that I had to get things fixed before the time limit ran out, and so when I'd get the nerve up, or get desperate enough, I'd push like mad until I was exhausted by the whole thing, thus fulfilling my own prophecy of the time limit. The next time, I'd have my assumed time limit set by the length of time I'd made it through the last time, and so I'd subconsciously plan accordingly, thus making my new attempt even more extreme-- and thus setting myself up for an even shorter time limit. Even worse, I had it assumed that the extremity factor was something I had to do, because otherwise time would run out and I'd still be fat and out of shape, and in-between attempts that would make it exhausting to even consider trying again.

The change is being able to trust yourself to keep taking those steps, I think. When you don't trust yourself to be able to take the second step, it makes it seem ridiculous to even consider a series of small steps; it makes it seem like you absolutely must do everything at once. And after all, the small steps seem so useless on their own that it really makes it feel like you're not accomplishing anything.

Take heart: it does work. It takes longer to get there, but it is much less scary, it's a lot easier, and it lasts. I'm as surprised as you are, and believe me, I'm still scared at some level that each step isn't going to be the last. I'm getting less scared, though, that it's all going to go away. I'm starting to believe that what I already have can last, and that the structure is strong enough that adding another little thing won't make everything collapse.

I think, in a way, my Hub starting to make changes like this is evidence that the slow and steady approach is a more attractive lifestyle choice. It's something that hasn't scared him off, and each change has been gradual enough to win him over. And I'm not going to worry that if he doesn't start exercising like a crazy man and officially changing his diet or whatever then he won't become healthy; of course he will. Step by step.


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