Today I was starting my normal Saturday practice that I initiated about two years ago. Each Saturday, I get up about 5 AM and go to Life Time Fitness in North Austin followed by a Weight Watchers meeting in Round Rock (read more about this practice here The Saturday Texas Two Step!). Normally I half groggily climb the steps to the gym in a daze. But today I noticed something different. On each step there was one word which when put together made this sentence: Every Journey Starts with the First Step!
Those words brought back to mind my first tentative steps in beginning my weight loss journey. 3 years later, I am 170 lbs. lighter and a whole lot happier and healthier. But when I first started out I felt a little like Bilbo at the start of The Lord of the Rings when he left the Shire and hummed:
“The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.” J.R.R Tolkien
Indeed, the first steps of any journey are exciting but a little scary. Here are a few hints for you that are starting out on the Road to Health:
1. Get a good check-up before the Journey: Most people before they take their car out on a long trip get the oil changed or a tune-up. Before embarking on a weight loss journey, it is important to get a check up of your own. For me this was my first step. I, like most guys I know, hate to go to the Doctor. And when they do, they do not follow up. But in my case, I could not avoid it any longer. My shoe size had increased from a size 11 to a 12 ½ in a little over three months. I also was feeling tired.
What was shocking was when I first got my checkup, my blood work all came back great. Hard to believe but at 350+ lbs. my cholesterol and sugar levels were normal. But I knew something was wrong and my Doctor provided me with referrals to specialists that correctly diagnosed what was wrong. A few weeks, and a few appointments later, I had the medication and the CPAP machine that I needed. These two items collectively helped to get my shoe size back down to an 11 and take off 20+ lbs. of water that was slogging around. My advice to all new weight loss journeyers: Before starting out, get a checkup and take action on recommendations.
2. Play “Body May I?”: When I was young kid, back before video games (or even videos), we used to play the game “Mother May I?” For those unfamiliar with the game, one person (it could be Mom) stands facing away from a line of kids. Each child the takes turns asking, “Mother may I take . . . steps?” And the child who is mother replies yes or no. The game ends when the first person makes it to Mother.
Now it was up to the person that played Mother to allow the step or not. And there were different strategies to win. One strategy was to go big first and ask for “Two Giant Steps”. Often this strategy would fail because the Mother did not want the game to end and even if they granted you two giant steps at first, would decline the next few requests. Another strategy was to ask for some crazy, wacky step that the Mother wanting to see it, would grant. My favorite was the double twisty, flip flop step, which would be two cross over of my legs, followed by forward roll (my version of a flip/flop). This may win the first game on a good day, but usually Mother would disallow it or never allow it again.
No, the strategy that usually worked were a series of baby step requests, followed by a medium step or two to win the game. Mother would allow it because you were not being greedy. I would ask for it like this “Mother May I take one little, bitty baby step please”.
Now what the heck does this have to do with Weight Loss. Here is the metaphor. When you are starting out, instead of Mother May I, you need to ask Body May I. If you ask for two Giant Steps out of the gate before you are ready, you are likely to not be able to take any other steps due to injury. Likewise, if you go on a fad diet or exercise routine (the equivalent of the double twisty, flip flop step), you may lose weight for awhile but in the next part of the journey it all comes rushing back. No, when playing Body May I, you need to start off with Baby Steps and then progress to Medium Steps. That is what I did. I could not walk far because of my joints so I did low impact water aerobics. I then progressed to the medium step which for me was the elliptical trainer. By the end of the journey, I was doing 4 hours of Spinning non-stop or walking 50 miles in one day. Remember start out with baby steps and then progress.
3. Pack the Right Provisions: Before you embark on any journey, it is necessary to pack the right provisions. This is doubly true when trekking to your weight loss goal. The first thing that I did after learning about healthy foods from Weight Watchers is clean out my pantry of Peanut M&M’s and Cheeto’s and replaced it with fruit and other healthy snacks. These nutritious, yet energy packed foods, helped me grow stronger along the way.
4. Bring a Buddy: A trip is always better if you take it with others. Continuing on with the Lord of the Rings theme from earlier, Frodo did not face the Black Riders by himself. No he brought Sam, Merry and Pippin! When I started out, I had several groups that traveled with me along the way. These groups include Weight Watchers Saturday Morning group, my Sister in Law Sherri’s fitness group, and my company group Accenture Active.
In closing, you can’t complete the journey until you take the first step. So like another old 80’s Christmas Show, “Just Put One Foot In Front Of The Other, And Soon You’ll be Walking Out the Door!”
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor.
You put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door.
You never will get where you’re going
If ya never get up on your feet.
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowin’
A fast walking man is hard to beat.
If you want to change your direction,
If your time of life is at hand,
Well, don’t be the rule, be the exception
A good way to start is to stand. Rankin/Bass