Cost-benefit analysis: Making good choices is a daily struggle
It is 11 p.m. I’m achy from my workout yesterday and feeling pretty good about it. I ate well today, except for three large squares of chocolate from the Pound Plus Trader Joe’s 72% Dark Chocolate bar after dinner. My waistline is blissfully unencumbered by elastic-waist, cotton and spandex yoga pants. I didn’t get out for my three-mile walk today because I snoozed on the couch instead. My 10-week-old baby is going to wake up in an hour or two to eat. Another glass of wine would be nice … and maybe a snack. Some of my husband’s peanut butter cereal, perhaps? God, what I wouldn’t give for a hit of Red Velvet from Cupcake Collection right about now …
It’s all too familiar. Old patterns are crying out to be repeated, but there is a bigger issue at hand, a large looming goal waiting to be met. I have vowed to lose my baby weight — and a little bit more — by the end of April. This pact, between me and myself, is a grand total of 17 pounds. I have made many of these agreements before. Many. Of course, most of them were never fully met. So, this time, if I have any hope of reaching my goal, I have to stop and ask myself… bottom-line, bare-naked, absolutely truthfully: “Why haven’t I met my goals before, and why should this time be any different?”
Somehow, someway, in the past, the cupcakes were always more important than attaining the body I was shooting for. My goals were not unreachable, but the choices I made on a daily basis belied my stated objective to lose weight. I set a goal; I got distracted; it got cold outside; I went out for the night; a girlfriend came to visit; we sampled the local cuisine along with a few vodka martinis, and eventually I forgot about the objective altogether. Choices were made day-after-day, and they were not in support of my fitness goals. I remained a mildly chubby but very enthusiastic personal trainer. Nothing changed. I was willing to pay the price for cupcakes and martinis. That choice was just fine at the time, but as of now, I am not willing to pay that price anymore.
It’s a cost-benefit analysis. There is a caloric “cost” for the unhealthy choices we make every day. How much will that pizza cost? A whole lot of calories and fat. What is the benefit I get for choosing to eat it? I get to eat a yummy slice or three. I get to feel full and happy. I get to share bonding time with friends as we tear into the pie together, but I pay a steep price as I walk around every day, uncomfortably squeezed into my fat jeans.
I know I can lose 17 pounds this time around because the cost is no longer worth it to me. The benefit of an hour at the gym is greater than the benefit of tater tots. I don’t know how long it will take, but I do know that this time I am in search of a new identity, not just a new body. This is about more than weight loss. It is about how I want to feel in my life going forward from here. I don’t want to skip out on river rafting because of a crippling fear of bathing suits. I don’t want to spend my time in the car contemplating how my pants are digging into my abdomen. I don’t want to feel weak and tired. Finally — after a year of giving my body over to pregnancy and recovery — how I feel inside of my skin matters more than cupcakes.
I would prefer to sleep instead of working out. I like to drink red wine every night. I would eat sugary baked goods every day if I could. But it’s time for different choices now. New choices aren’t so hard to make when the vision at the end of the tunnel is so much more alluring than the potholes along the way. I’m ready to make choices that support the woman I want to be. The baked goods and the excuses to avoid breaking a sweat are going to have to go by the wayside for now.
The wine? Well, that’s a different story. If the wine pads my hips with a soft little layer of love, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
Dana Birdsong didn’t have time for a headache that day. The (then) 35-year-old lobbyist and advocate for the American College of Cardiology in Washington, D.C. had a meeting on Capitol Hill she couldn’t miss.
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