Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lessons from the Woodstove

It's May 7th... and we're still waiting for summer to arrive. There have been times in the last week when I would have liked to stoke up the woodstove. Morning temperatures have been in the 30s. Brrr! This morning, reading "The Spark" by Chris Downie, founder of SparkPeople, I read about "Building the fire." That got me thinking about our woodstove, trying to draw lessons about building a fire for weight loss from my knowledge and experience in building a fire in the woodstove.
Now, I'm not saying I'm an expert in building a fire in the woodstove. My husband Ron is the household expert. I'll admit, there are times when I get home from work, and the house is very cold... so I cuddle under a couple of afghans and wait for him to get home to stoke up the stove and take the chill off the house!
So, one of the first things is that you need to right materials to start the fire. You need some smaller, dry sticks, some matches, and (in our case) a little chunk of starter log (we're too cheap to toss the whole firestarter in every time we start up the woodstove... so we break each 6" log into a dozen or so pieces). If the sticks are too big, they're not going to catch on fire by the time the starter log is gone. If they're too small, they'll flare up and burn out quickly without starting the larger pieces on fire. Sometimes it's not convenient to get all the materials together. I might have to go out into the cold garage to load up on firewood. There might not be a starter log chopped up into pieces yet. Sometimes that's where cuddling up with an afghan or two and waiting for Ron to get home turns into a more favorable option.
Okay, application to weight loss...  I need to use the right materials: healthy eating and exercise. Sometimes it's not all that convenient. I might have to make a run to the grocery store for some fresh fruits and vegetables. I might have to get up earlier in the morning to make the time for exercise. They need to be the right "size", too. If a couch potato decides to run three miles on his first day of exercise, he'll probably be so sore the next day that he abandons the exercise program completely. Likewise, if a diet is way too limited and restrictive, the "fire" just isn't going to catch. Finding what works and sticking to it is key.
Patience and diligence are a bit part of starting the fire. It doesn't always start with the first match. I certainly have had my share of "restarts" as far as my weight loss journey is concerned. Just as I don't give up when that first (or second, or third) match sputters and dies, when I fail on my diet and exercise regime, I need to get right back in there and start anew. Procrastination, in the form of "Oh, I ate something I shouldn't have. I'll just start my diet on Monday, so I guess I can have ice cream with dinner after all"--is a killer to keeping the fire of enthusiasm lit. The key is to get back on track as soon as possible. If the fire in the woodstove goes out, the sooner I get back in there to light it back up again, the easier it is, because the heat of the previous fire is still there.
Build on your success. Once the fire has been going for a bit, and you have some nice glowing coals, it gets easier to keep the fire going. You can add bigger pieces of wood that will burn hotter and longer. It's like that with exercise, too. As you gain strength and endurance, you can exercise more, harder and longer, and burn more calories. Improvements like cutting your time for a particular running route, increasing the weights you can work with, or getting through a particular workout without feeling like you're going to die are great victories. Celebrate them! Announce them to the world on Facebook! Be proud of yourself! Stretch yourself! Challenge yourself! Done a 5K? Maybe it's time to train for a 10K or a half marathon!
It doesn't have to be huge successes you celebrate. Make small goals you want to meet. It might be as small as posting a list of things to do that day on the fridge: exercise 30 minutes, stay within _____ calories, drink 8 glasses of water, take vitamins. Those are the kind of little successes that build up to big successes.
Fan the flames... sometimes when you add some wood to the glowing embers, you need to add some oxygen to get the flames to burst to life. I think that the act of fanning the flames has a parallel in losing weight, too. I think when we get good feedback and compliments from others, that fans our flames. Support is key. Finding a good group of friends who will support you in your weight loss effort is essential. I have found those friends through SparkPeople, Facebook, and LiveFit Revolution. They cheer me on and encourage me to keep going, and I hope that I'm doing the same for them.
Don't neglect the fire... I'm guilty of this with both the woodstove and my fire for weight loss. I get so busy with other things that I forget to tend the fire... just as I get so busy that I don't make the time for diet and exercise. It's hard to get everything done, so sometimes you just have to get creative... like this:

I wrote out the outline for this blog while peddling on the exercise bike. I guess I can check "half hour of exercise" off my list today!

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