Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Work and Exercise
(Today Is The Day 4.)

Not quite the same mental adjustment as diet.

I mean, you have to eat, and unless punishing yourself with a grotesque diet, you will enjoy it. The only problem is staying away from less healthy foods, or portions, that you think you'll enjoy more. Exercise and work are trickier.

You know for a fact that even though you frequently don't want to begin exercise, you almost always feel great about it when you're done (unless you've overdone and injured yourself). So the problem is really just powering through those first ten minutes.

As to the work you have promised yourself you will do when Today Is The Day, well, this too is a question of attitude. How much you have always thought you'd love working on that novel, that popular song, that website from which you will sell the product you understand so well. I'm on your side. I believe that you not only think you can do that stuff, you can do that stuff, and once you get in the swing of it, you will frequently love doing that stuff. But you know, you have to power through the first ten minutes there too, and sometimes it's more than ten minutes.

Once again, I offer you advice that is not original, just good, and proven.

Schedule it. Dress or otherwise accouter for it, go to a place you have assigned yourself to be at for this thing, and stay there doing nothing else for an hour. You must at least start it, and do some small piece of it, and when you stop, you can't leave, but must just sit there until an hour is up. (You could practice meditation, I suppose.) This doesn't sound very appealing, but great multitudes of people have found that it does work. Once you start, you warm up, and it's much more fun than doing nothing. You can't say that the risk of doing nothing for forty or fifty minutes is holding you back, because you frequently do nothing but watch TV or surf the Internet (you wouldn't be reading this else) or play some game you've played a million times or talk to strangers in a bar--and all for hours and hours and hours. Want to break those habits of wasting time? Sit and count the minutes as they go by, with no alternative but going back to something constructive.

The big work project, unlike exercising, which you can just start in on, often has a daunting startup phase that breeds procrastination. You can't write a novel without an outline. You can't build a website for, and market, your housepainting business without researching how to do those things. Okay. The first hour, you make a list of what has to be done. You turn each vague item on the list into something specific enough to do. Get that book out of the library. Call that guy and ask. Read those instructions. Next hour, you go down the list and start doing every little thing. You will get to the good part eventually, and enjoy it all the more when you do.

Oh, one more thing. On the exercise, start small. If you've been sedentary a long time, and it doesn't have to be a very long time to reduce your stamina to zero, you aren't going to do an hour of vigorous exercise. It would kill you. You laugh, but you won't do it, and if you try, it will put you off exercise for another year. And it's not necessary to go a full hour to begin building a very healthy exercise habit. I recommend at least starting with this sledgehammer workout for fourteen minutes. If you never get past fourteen minutes, it will still do you a lot of good. I have no association with the author of that page, I just think he's gotten a lot of things right (the fourteen minute time limit is particularly clever); you may notice that he also has a diet plan, and that I have borrowed ideas from that too. Great minds, etc.

Tomorrow Is Not The Day
(Today Is The Day 3.)

I'm going to be harsh and unfair now, and assume you're like me. You've got the idea of how to implement Today Is The Day, and you're planning on doing it real soon. Just going to celebrate tonight first with a big meal, a bottle, and whatever else might not require thought of any kind. Because you're still seeing Today Is The Day in terms of big effort and big sacrifice forever, and you say, sure, I'll commit to that, but first one more day of doing what gives me pleasure.

Doesn't this seem awfully familiar? This Last Fling Feast has preceded every diet and New Year's Resolution regimen you've essayed for years, many of which have never gotten any further than the feast itself.

Today Is The Day is not a crash diet and war-footing five-year-plan. It is living one day just as you have claimed you dream of doing. Enjoying your meals, enjoying a little light exercise, enjoying a work project of your own choosing. Do not put it off until tomorrow. If you find out that going even one day without goofing off and over-indulging is beyond your capacity--well, you might as well know that now. But if you find that--what do you know?--the life you always dreamed of isn't half bad, then you've taken the first step to living it day after day after day.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Post-Diet Diet
(Today Is The Day 2.)

So we're decided. We're not going to wait until we've suffered and sacrificed to become a wholly new person before we live the way we always dreamed of living. How does this work? A good example is diet.

In our fantasy future, when we get up every day at the weight we always dreamed of being at, how did we eat in such a way as to a) stay lean, and b) enjoy life?

I think most of us would agree on the following principles, which show up again and again in the advice of those who successfully practice moderation.

1. We will eat a well-balanced diet, with no extreme prohibitions or overloads in any one category characteristic of fad diets. I am tempted to add my own dietary suggestions here, based on science and experience, but really, it's not my business. I will point out that nutritional science is turning against the anti-fat crusade of recent decades, and fat satisfies hunger, whereas simple carbohydrates like sugar can, if anything, stimulate it. But people who don't overeat can pick their own proportions of fat, carbohydrate, and protein, and usually do fine.

2. We will eat three moderate meals a day. That's three servings, or small-to-medium-sized platefuls, not piled high, with no seconds. Or two such meals and a substantial snack.

3. We will eat mindfully. Let me make this clear. We will not shovel food into our mouths while watching TV or playing a computer game or having a political argument with a deranged relative. We will set aside time and space to a) pay attention to what we're eating, b) eat it slowly, and c) enjoy and feel grateful for it. Remember, the mental attitude that has made us fat is the belief, often the insistence, that we love food because it makes us happy. Yet fat people eat ninety percent of their meals unconsciously. Those first few bites can be ecstatic, yes, but then it's a matter of making sure we get everything available and fitting it all in and being done with it, hard labor, even if we feel bloated and distended by the end of it. Whereas when someone eats slowly and mindfully, there is time for the chemical components of food to hit the bloodstream and send satiety messages back to the brain. You enjoy it, you know you enjoy it, and you don't need seconds (although sure, that habit will still have to be broken.)

4. We can have a glass or two of wine or beer a day, if they don't undermine the rules above, and as much coffee or tea as we enjoy. (If caffeine happens to over-affect us, of course, we wouldn't enjoy that.)

5. We will not regularly have sweets or sweet desserts, only very occasionally and in small portions, to be savored slowly.

That all sounds about right, doesn't it? We won't be deprived, we will enjoy what we eat, but we will no longer imagine that packing it in makes us happy.

If you believe that you will eat like that after you lose your current fifty or hundred extra pounds, congratulations. Today Is The Day. You can start now. Never diet again, just eat good food in moderation. If you also exercise in moderation (as you surely intended your future self to do), you will soon begin to lose weight. Slower than you would on a "strict diet"--maybe a little slower, maybe a lot slower, that depends on a lot of things. But you will lose and lose until you are at a healthy maintenance weight and can shake hands with the future self you only imagined. Don't tell me it might take two or three years and that's too long. Never is too long. And that's where we came in.

What is this Way of Three Persons you speak of?

We'll get to that eventually. It's a little more esoteric than Today Is The Day. Taking my own advice has led me to start Today with that topic, but it's all one ocean.

You can't get there from here.
(Today Is The Day 1.)

The future seems like a wonderful place. Having finally lost all the weight you wanted to lose, you won't have to diet, but will be well-satisfied with 2000 (or whatever) calories a day. Having built toned muscles to go with that lean body, you will be able to keep that good shape with less than an hour of working out a day, and it will mainly be stuff your new body genuinely enjoys--tennis, or some other sport, perhaps. Having cleared your plate of distractions and other projects, you will work at what you really enjoy--and not at the mercy of some stressful deadline, but putting in perhaps four hours a day which pass quickly, you being in the flow state and all. The future will be wonderful.

But you'll never get there.

Between you and that future loom the six months of murderous diet and exercise it will take to lose that forty pounds. (Eighty pounds, a hundred? A year at least.) And you find that just starting that exercise at your current weight hurts and hurts and hurts, and at the end of the day there is no comfort food to make it all seem worthwhile. And you can't do that creative work until you clear your plate of other demands, and it's very hard to do that when all the distractions of the Internet beckon.

You can't get there from here. You will spend the rest of your life ... here. In the present.

Somehow, you must skip the part where you have to make superhuman efforts and sacrifices that in your heart you know you will never make, and start living now the way you imagine yourself living then. Because that could actually work. Let me go on.