The Health and Fitness Spiral

Speaking for myself alone, these are important contributing factors to unhealthy weight and obesity:

  • Wishful thinking
  • Self pity
  • Stress and overwork
  • Hard marketing and easy availability of cheap, fast, inexpensive foods loaded with sugars and refinedĀ flour

I lack the math skills to express a spiral, but my best method for gaining control over my diet and fitness is a positive feedback loop or spiral.

Reps for My Tiny Little Willpower Muscle

Tiny, repeatable actions can move me up the spiral toward health and fitness, or down toward indolence, overeating and self-pity. What I’ve learned is that, at any point, I can initiate a positive feedback loop with a single step toward where I want to go. The starting step can be ridiculously easy, like ordering the fish instead of the bacon cheeseburger, or going for a 10-minute walk. Or here’s one: trying a food I have avoided for years, like this beautiful produce from the Leon Valley Farmers Market around the corner from my house that happens each Wednesday morning:

beautiful golden beets and colorful chard

That one step boosts my confidence and self esteem a tiny little bit. Let’s say my first step was a 10-minute walk. The walk gets my blood moving and perks me up. Internally I’m saying “Good for you, you got out there, at least.” My stress level goes down just a tiny little bit. I’m 10-minute-walk nicer to my family. I feel 10-minute-walk better about myself. And feeling just that little bit better, I do another small thing, and another, and another.

Pretty soon, I’m starting to think I’m someone who cares about herself. I order the salad and fish instead of the bacon cheeseburger. My clothes begin to feel looser. I take more care in selecting what I’m going to wear. I notice how I feel.

And so on, up the spiral, just a tiny little action at a time. A wise woman once described this type of small-actions-getting-big-results-over-time as training a tiny, flaccid little self-care muscle. Over time, with enough reps, I’ve become someone who takes care of herself more.

Sliding Back Down? One Upward Step Stops the Slide

Like almost everyone I know, I do well for awhile, then something happens and I start losing ground on my spiral, slipping down in the wrong direction. I get overwhelmed, stressed or anxious. On a business trip, I comfort myself in a hotel room with food. I hurt my knee and can’t work. Waaah. And the scale, or my clothes, sooner or later tell me I’m not taking care of myself again.

The answer is always: Love myself, forgive myself for slipping, for being human, for finding this place again. As soon as I notice it’s happening, take the first step back up the spiral. Start from where I am.

Fresh figs from my backyard