Looking into the mirror just before I stepped into the shower, I didn’t like what I saw. While not necessarily obese or even experiencing any health complications due to my weight, I simply didn’t like that I didn’t have full control. A protruding dad gut. Love handles. Arms that appeared to be one single piece of meat. Flabby thighs. It was around this time that I decided, for the first time, at age 32, to take control of my body.
I began a routine of jumping rope — a childhood pastime activity I was excited to start again. It looked fun. Starting wasn’t easy, but as my stamina increased, I actually began to crave jumping rope in my driveway. I added some simple living room exercise intervals — planking, push-ups, wall sits, that kind of thing. Next, I started documenting what I ate, which led to some changes. The exercise and intentional diet began to move the scale a bit…but not as much as I had hoped.
I realize that the scale isn’t the best metric of health. All it can do is tell you how heavy you are — not what that weight consists of. I knew I was losing fat, but I was simultaneously gaining muscle, leaving the scale stuck at 209 pounds for several weeks.
“If only I could dip below 200,” I would tell myself.
Suddenly, another voice entered my head.
“What then? You’re good? You’re done? Mission accomplished?”
After a few more weeks, the numbers on the scale crept lower. 207. 205. 203. (Yep, always in odds, for some reason.) Still, I then realized that hitting 199 wasn’t going to feel as momentous as I once hoped. I knew that the “And now what?” voice would return to dash my satisfaction. I needed a new “satisfaction” metric.
Would it be 190 pounds? What then? 180? I’m 6-foot-two and building muscle — any lighter than that isn’t exactly what I wanted. But what did I want?
I began to realize that no bodily metric would ever be satisfactory. Worse, hitting that metric would inevitably justify a backslide. Even if I were to work to maintain those ideal body metrics, what would happen as I’d age? Would maintaining a certain body-fat percentage or weight be possible in my 60s? My 70s? My 80s? Anything short of those arbitrary indicators of success would be a continuous disappointment.
While washing my hands in the bathroom at work one day, I had an epiphany: forget the finish line and concentrate on the race itself. Continuing to run (or more accurately, jump rope) would be the race itself. My goal wouldn’t be a bodily metric, but making a healthy lifestyle second nature.
After a few seconds, my goofy grin in the bathroom mirror reminded me that the water was still running. Still, I was excited to attack this new mindset immediately. I could finally stop looking at the scale and stay focused on the to-do list until a to-do was unnecessary.
This concept wasn’t completely foreign to me. Ever since reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, I had been obsessed with breaking unproductive habits and making good habits second nature. In the past, I’ve written about solidifying my prayer life by adjusting my identity. I didn’t “try to pray more”, but instead decided to simply be a person who prays every day. After a few months of calendar reminders, these notifications started taking up space on my calendar because I hadn’t missed a single day regardless. That time every morning was and still is roped off for prayer.
“Now, I just have to do that with exercise and eating,” I thought to myself as I left the bathroom.
Ultimately, my goal now has nothing to do with a scale. It is to make not exercising more of a hassle than my morning workout routine.
- To make jumping rope every morning in my driveway as routine as my first cup of coffee….into my 80s.
- To make my 8.5-minute living room strength training session as intuitive as taking a multivitamin.
- To make eating sensibly as lucrative as eating terribly once was.
- Where doing all of these things near-daily just feels better than not doing them.
My goal is ultimately to be an elderly man with a long white beard and still reply to the question of, “Ken, did you exercise and eat decently today?” with “Duh.”
Aside from Saturdays. All bets are off on Saturdays.
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