I want … to stop dieting on a deadline

May 17, 2011

We’ve all done it. We learn that some special occasion is coming up, and bam! the diet starts because we only have a couple weeks/a month/three months (whatever) to lose the extra weight.

I want to already be in shape when there’s a special event rather than hurriedly trying to diet away pounds on a deadline.

For one thing, it often doesn’t work. If I’m trying to lose weight just for a wedding or reunion, that’s not a good enough reason. It’s not the kind of strong, internal motivation that’s going to sustain my efforts for the long haul. I need to do this for me and for my health, and because I want to feel better physically and mentally. Of course, I want to look better too, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve realized that that’s not enough.

Secondly, it’s too much pressure. If I mess up and go on a binge, there’s often not enough time to recover. That makes me stressed and depressed, and that’s no frame of mind to be in when I’m trying to get fit. It’s no fun counting the days and thinking, “Oh, boy, now I only have [insert number] of days left. There’s no way I’m going to be [insert number] pounds by then.”

Finally, it’s usually not realistic. Even a couple of months to get in shape is not enough time. I can lose a little, but not enough to really be satisfied. Trying to lose too much in too short a time can also be a dangerous temptation to use unsafe methods, such as fad diet pills or eating too few calories.

The solution for me is to work at my fitness program regardless of external events. Then when the time arrives (and there’s always some special occasion around the corner), I’ll already be in shape, or well on my way, at least. I have as much time as I need to lose the weight. Not that I want to go to the other extreme and procrastinate, but knowing that I’m not a failure if I can’t lose X number of pounds by X date is a big load off my mind.

Deadlines can be good; when they’re positive and realistic, they’re called goals. But I’ve used them in a more negative way in the past, and I’m determined to stop doing that. If I don’t reach my goal when I want to, the sky won’t fall; I’ll just keep at it until I do get there. Without that goal, I would probably be a little lazy. But it’s not a deadline in the sense that I’m going to be a failure if I haven’t lost every pound I wanted to by a certain date.

So the next time I get an invitation of some sort in the mail, I want my first thought to not be, How much weight can I lose between now and then?

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