Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The True Measure of Success...

How do you measure success?  If this was the classroom, I could tell you easily.  At my heart, I am a teacher. I've been on that particular journey for 24 years now and know that success is measured by achievement of the objectives that were taught.  Plain and simple.

But what about success on this other journey I'm now on?  The one that I undertook when I finally realized my health and life (or at the very least my lifestyle) were at risk and did something to change that.  How is success measured on that journey?  Is it as simple as achieving the objectives?  Do I have to achieve them ALL before I can call the journey a success? 

Last week as I finally broke the plateau I was on for 12 weeks, it occurred to me that I have been measuring my success by pretty much one standard - weight loss.  If I'm losing weight, I'm feeling successful.  And that's actually a fairly decent measure for an obese woman!  After all, I've got a lot of weight still to lose so I can finally lose that title of "obese"!  But it's not the only measure of whether I'm being successful right now or not.  And really it may not even be the best measurement of success for me right now.  Take a look at a few more with me.

Last night in the gym, working on the elliptical, I made a 9:10 mile even faster.  I did it in 8:53.  Those 17 seconds amaze me.  Really.  I can move my body a full mile in under 9 minutes!  Do you know that on April 18th of this year, my first night in the gym, I could only go a quarter of a mile on the treadmill...and that it took me almost 10 minutes? So, in 8 months, I've gone from about 1.5 miles per hour to a little more than 6 miles an hour.  No matter how you measure success, that surely has to qualify.

Tonight, my dinner plate contained very reasonable portions of a very lean meatloaf (I've got a great recipe for that, btw!) and redskin mashed potatoes.  There was no butter on my potatoes because I've learned to season things to replace the flavor I loved from the butter I used to add.  My total calories today...1500.  This is a pretty common occurrence for me these days.  Room for growth?  Absolutely.  But successful for a person trying to lose weight?  To a certain degree, yes.  I've got a decent shot at seeing the scale look a little lower tomorrow morning.

You know from our discussions here on this blog that I've discovered one of my personal demons - one that caused so much of this weight gain in the first place -  is emotional eating. I tend to engage in mindless and needless eating, not for hunger, but to avoid feeling strong emotions.  There's not too much going on in life that can't be buried under chocolate fudge brownies...and I make REALLY good brownies!  But there have been some really difficult things in the past two weeks happening in my life.  And I've been controlling myself and sticking to my eating plan for the most part.  I did sit down last week with that piece of peanutbutter cup pie.  But after the first bite, I stopped and threw away the rest.   For the most part these days, I eat when I'm hungry...and not for any other reason.  Is this success?  In my mind...absolutely!

And here's a biggie.  Today the weather has been warm, changing to cold, with a steady, heavy rain all day.  Normally, my knees would be swollen and walking would be difficult.  But not today.  I have moved freely around my classroom, I cooked dinner after unloading and reloading the dishwasher, and the only reason I am sitting down right now is to write this blog post.  I could be up and moving if I wanted to be.  I am able to move on a cold, rainy night after a long day of work.  Is that success?  YOU BET!!! 

Which, brings us full circle.  Right back to weight loss.  The reason my knees are not unbearable today is that I've lost 91 pounds.  There's 4 pounds of pressure on your knees for every pound you weigh.  Did you know that?  I do...intimately! Because I've lost those 91 pounds, I've relieved 364 pounds of pressure off of my knees.  THAT is why I'm walking right now, able to move freely, able to live my life in a very different way than I did when I began this journey.

So, what is the true measure of success?  To me, it's all of these things.  And I need to remember to view it this way, and not totally rely solely on what my scale says.  Losing weight is always going to be a great indicator of how well my journey is going.  It's easy to measure and mark milestones using my weight.  But it's only part of the picture.  I need to remember that and refuse to get down when the scale moves slower than I want it to.

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