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What Drives You?

A lot of changing one's lifestyle boils down to self-control and learning to live differently. Give yourself the grace to make changes slow, and the grace to keep trying after messing up.

Tiffany Duncan
March 28, 2018

According to Business Insider, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February. That’s an insanely high number. And I can attest that I understand why that is — it’s dang hard to stay motivated. But in my opinion, that’s where we all go wrong; motivation is simply not enough, but every year we fool ourselves into thinking that it is. But motivation can only take one so far.

Let’s say the concept of losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle is a car. Can motivation be the gas that powers that car? For the first few weeks, I think yes. We get so tired of slogging around extra weight that we know we need a change, and for the first few weeks of a new year it’s enough to sustain us, and we can cruise along at a pretty good clip. But after that, when life gets back into full swing after the holidays, we lose our motivation to busy schedules, poor planning or organization, and letting go of our goals and why we desired a healthier lifestyle in the first place.

So what powers the car when sheer motivation runs out? What can we use for gas when it frankly becomes an easier option to just crash and burn? Personally, I think this is how it breaks down: being intentional about proper meal planning and organization becomes the gas; discovering a fitness outlet that works for you becomes the gas pedal; and self-control becomes the brake.

People do not like to be hungry. Feeding yourself is a self-preservation instinct, and it’s also horribly unpleasant to be starving and hangry. When I leave the house without eating a proper meal and get stuck in traffic while running a full day of errands, you better believe I’m panic-swerving into that Taco Bell drive-thru for an XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito. It doesn’t take me long to regret that decision however. You know what I’m talking about.

Or how about this: you get home after a long day at work and you’re just too tired to cook and all you want to do is cry and cry over the latest episode of This is Us, so you decide to order a pizza. And there’s a coupon deal going on, so you might as well order three medium pizzas, and what the heck throw in that cheesy bread. And all right give me that cookie pizza, whatever that is. (Junk food magically arriving at one’s doorstep is arguably the downfall of modern society, but that’s for another time.) Seriously though, it’s so easy to compromise when you’re exhausted.

But let me present another scenario: you get home after a long day at work and you’re just too tired to cook, so you warm up a leftover bowl from the big pot of veggie detox soup you made Sunday afternoon and let your tears for Jack Pearson fall into the steaming carrot and quinoa medley.

The moral of the story is, don’t let yourself get hungry without a plan in place because, if you’re anything like me, you will go for the easy and unhealthy. Utilizing the weekends to prepare for the week ahead is absolutely crucial to setting yourself up for a successful week of healthy eating.

Any type of physical activity will be challenging — especially at the beginning —  but some will challenge you in a way you actually enjoy conquering.
Any type of physical activity will be challenging — especially at the beginning —  but some will challenge you in a way you actually enjoy conquering.

Here’s what I do every weekend (or at least make very ambitious attempts): on Saturdays I grocery shop, and on Sundays I chop, prep, and cook. I try to make a big, healthy pot of something for my husband and I to eat for dinner through Tuesday night, as well as prepping for two morning breakfasts of overnight oats, or baking a batch of egg bites (crack out eggs into a muffin tin and fill with diced tomatoes, spinach, low-fat feta, lean ground turkey, etc.).

I’ll also prepare a few snacks for the week, like slicing up sweet baby bell peppers for easy-scooping in hummus, boiling two or three eggs, or making guac with lots of lime juice to keep it from turning brown. I like to have snacks that I don’t have to prep also, like a jar of almond butter for dipping apples or bananas, little clementine oranges, or a small bowl of nonfat plain Greek yogurt with some added grapes for sweetness. I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s organic chia bars and RXBARs as well.

Then Wednesday, I will repeat the whole chop, prep, and cook process, still utilizing the groceries purchased Saturday so I don’t have to run to the store and fight the crowds again.

Now, that’s all best-case scenario; sometimes I don’t get to do all of that or have to end up going to the store two or even three times a week. But it is my highest goal to get efficient enough to feed my little family good, nourishing food so we won’t have to keep ordering pizzas for dinner. Proper planning and organization is absolutely the gas that takes over when motivation fails.

Now for the gas pedal. Finding a workout that you enjoy is so important, as it will work in tandem with the good food you’re consuming and allow you to accelerate weight loss and muscle toning. Feeling good after a workout that doesn’t fill you with dread at the thought of doing it again is like the beginning of a tiny snowball. Completing a workout gives you that feeling of, “What else can I do that I didn’t know about?” and allows you to start rolling that snowball and gaining momentum. But again, it’s crucial that you don’t dread whatever activity this is; it’s a myth that exercise has to be miserable.

Yes, any type of physical activity will be challenging — especially at the beginning —  but some will challenge you in a way you actually enjoy conquering. Trust me.

For example, I took a few indoor spin classes last year and let me tell you, it was my own personal hell. But recently I joined the indoor rock-climbing facility Climb Tulsa* after only trying it once. Is this because I was a natural and everyone stared in awe as I climbed effortlessly to the top like some Spider-Man prodigy? No way. In fact, I hadn’t felt quite so awkward in a very long time, being in a room full of people who were way better than me at something. I actually felt more like my limbs were made of overcooked spaghetti while attempting to scale even the beginner climbs, and I topped it off nicely when I fell epically and shouted an expletive in the presence of children (check out my Instagram to witness this not-so-shining moment of mine).

But — and this is an important but — this particular exercise was intoxicating to me. I loved the challenge. I loved the way it made muscles burn that I haven’t felt in a long time. I loved the way it made me feel the next day. And the second time I went, I conquered a climb I had previously failed at, but it took me 30 consecutive minutes of strained sweating, shaking, slipping, falling, cursing (I should probably get that under control), and yes, even crying a little to do it. But the second my feet touched the ground after reaching the top, I knew this was something I wanted to keep doing for a long time. And as an added bonus, my husband and I are doing it together. We finally found something that works for both of us and we are equally excited about.

Lastly, there’s the brake pedal, that all-important piece that keeps one from suffering a fiery crash. Really, self-control is just the same in that aspect when it comes to making a lifestyle change. Although it’s important to still indulge for special occasions (treat yo’self, I think the kids say these days), for the most part you should be limiting your intake of empty carbs like pizza, sugary treats, cheese and salt-laden junk food (bye-bye, XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito), and processed, boxed goods, especially late at night. Unfortunately, this also includes alcohol intake, so save your cheat beers for a special night out with friends or when celebrating a life win. And get that boxed wine out of the house; it is not your friend (mostly I’m repeating this for myself).

A lot of changing one’s lifestyle boils down to self-control and learning to live differently. Give yourself the grace to make changes slowly, and the grace to keep trying after messing up. But really, there’s no way around it: unfortunately, in order to live differently, you’ll be saying no a lot. But that’s OK. You’re working toward something better, like increasing your daily energy level, reducing the myriad health risks that come from an unhealthy lifestyle, beating back depression, shushing anxiety, and finally getting that prized Look Good Naked (LGN) license.  

* Climb Tulsa is moving to a new location at 31st Street and Yale Avenue in May and will also offer yoga classes, free weights, and various other workout-related resources. The price for membership will increase at that time, but if you join now ($44 monthly for an individual or $64 monthly for a couple), you will be grandfathered in and still only pay the original price.

Instagram handle: rightyes_rightno_918
Blog handle: rightyesrightno918.com

Utilizing as many free and cheap resources as she can find in the 918 area, routinely forsaking her fitness comfort zone to discover effective workouts, and cooking more intentionally from home, Duncan is publicly documenting her progress in each issue as she works to lose 30 pounds in 2018.