Posted: January 29, 2011 in Posts

I’ve been discussing, online and off, weather having to take a break in 3+1 due to working myself into illness constitutes a failure or not.

Obviously, I got results. I’m down 8 pounds now and much closer to a passing waist measurement.* So it’s not a total failure. As was pointed out to me but many people, I stuck to the program in circumstances that most people wouldn’t have. As my co-workers have pointed out, I’m crazy enough to push things until I get sick and have to stop.

I had never articulated it in these terms but up until now my smaller goals, the stepping stones to the big ones, have always been set in terms of “Do X for Y number of days”. I think this comes from my military background. All the hard things I’ve gone through in the military I’ve just focused on what needed to be done until the mission was over, the next day off, the next few hours. If you can sit in a 90 degree tent, in full chem gear and focus on finishing your rather nitpicky paperwork while not going to the bathroom for an hour or two, you can make yourself do a lot of things that are…uncomfortable.

Do X for Y number of days.

It works for somethings. It worked for getting thought basic training, both deployments and every exercise or inspection I’ve been on. It works well for surviving things, but it’s not particularly well suited for open ended goals such as “be healthier”. It’s a tactic, not a strategy.

Doing X for Y number of days is also poorly suited for anything long term. Because let’s face it, shit happens. I joked with a friend that I was going to take six weeks off work just to do Mass Made Simple so that I could ensure I got through it with out having a repeat of this last work trip. Even then there’s no guarantee that I won’t have to skip a training day.  It’s even addressed in the book. That’s a large part of why X for Y doesn’t work for much more than two weeks. Here I spent a week pissing an moaning about feeling bad and not completing my  challenge and I had lost 7 pounds. Not insignificant for a month of weight loss. I remember being happy to two pounds come off in a month at the end of my first run in weight watchers. You have to account for everyday life when you think on a monthly scale.

So X for Y is reserved for short term goals. Like giving up caffeine for a week. No Caffeine for seven days. This is easy.

My Caffeine addiction is legendary. On one of my deployments people were told not to talk to me until after I had a pot, and entire pot, of coffee in the morning. “Energy drinks” are my worst habit. I drink the diet ones like they were ambrosia.

Pictured: Supplies for a good weekend...

People have challenged me with various stimulant laden beverages. It takes quite a bit to phase me. Due to some unique quirks of my brain chemistry I don’t get nervous or distracted. Most people with ADD respond the same way. I feel the physical lift from caffeine, but my mental processes sharpen and I can focus much better than without it. It calms me down, even in extreme amounts. However, as I’ve gotten older, caffeine has started to interfere with my sleep and who knows what kind of chemical hell is really contained in all those tallboys with the blue M.

Coffee. You bet your ass at the end of this week there will be coffee. I love coffee. I have a thermos I call the thermos of joy, it’s just for coffee. But those damn energy drinks are A. sweet B. convenient and C. I can’t really do a hot cup o joe  on a hot afternoon. They’re also $2.50 each, which is freaking highway robbery for what is basically diet soda. So periodically I go cold turkey on caffeine and get back to the point where a few cups of coffee in the morning satisfies me and keeps me moving. The larger picture is that I’m not still drinking it at three, or four, or five in the afternoon and setting myself up for a bad night’s sleep.

Back to goal setting, X for Y works well for breaking a habit but not so much for creating one or anything longer than a couple of weeks. So I need to work on the idea of goals with rewards. I tend not to reward myself for achieving a goal. In many cases, the satisfaction of achieving the goal is enough. I make a lift, I’m happy. For others, it’s more of a grim “well I got it done” kind of satisfaction or relief. Those are the goals that need rewards. Anything involving a direct sacrifice. So:

No caffeine until next Saturday, I’ll get a new coffee pot. Maybe one of those nice ones with the timer so I can sleep in an extra five minutes and have it available first thing when I get out of bed.

I need to give up late night snacking. Most of my dietary sins are committed between dinner and bed. Week after this, no snacks except a small protein shake before bed as I’m often hungry after dinner.

I got started not rewarding myself with food for dieting goals because it seemed like it would lead me right back into my old habits. I just finished a month of dieting and I’m gonna go back to cheeseburgers immediately? I don’t buy myself things because I’m tightwad and the idea of buying something frivolous every few weeks offends me.

I think avoiding late night snacking would merit buying a copy of Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1. I’ve been wanting it for a while. It’s not that expensive and I’ve toyed with doing his program for a long time now.

I think after that, I’ll start looking at some of the free and low cost things I enjoy, Geocaching, disc golf, etc. as rewards.

Now for long term goals, I need to add more flexibility in, I’ve got some thinking to do there. But for now everything is being worked on one to two weeks at a time with x for y and rewards are in the making.

*There’s a rant coming up about the USAF using waist measurement to score PT tests, but I’m going to save it until after I have a set of body calipers to either lend some credence to my point or prove I’m as fat as they think I am after all.


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