8/22/2012

The Secret to Success

You know how sometimes you make a change in one part of your life and it unexpectedly bleeds over into another part of your life when you are least expecting it? I'm there, right now.

For me the biggest key to finally getting into shape was the lesson of moderation. I (or anyone else) really can eat anything, as long as it's in moderation. Ice cream? Sure, but just have an ounce and a half. Biscuits and gravy at a restaurant? Sure - eat half and take the rest to go.

Apparently it's taken me almost 35 years to realize this was possible.

And it's funny, because I can look back over my life and see in many places where, perhaps, a little bit more moderation may have been helpful. From when I was little I've always been a tad obsessive about collecting things. I think it all started in 1987 with baseball cards. This was back before the internet, back when putting together a set of 792 Topps cards was a serious challenge, because eBay wasn't there to satisfy all your needs instantly. I spent quite a hours/days/weeks pouring over that first set and wondering how I was going to find that one missing piece (which just happened to be a Mark McGwire rookie card, the most expensive in the set to buy individually, of course).

That set - that card, actually - started me down a rabbit hole. A friend worshipped Eric Davis at the time, so turned me on to this idea of amassing a giant collection of cards of a single player. I decided Rickey Henderson was my favorite player and became focused on collecting all of his cards. Again, this was pre-internet days, so that mostly involved acquiring all Henderson cards my friends had.

This went on for a few years, and then as high school happened collecting cards fell by the way side (though I still have them all), in favor of hanging out with friends and music. Yep, I started collecting CDs. By the time I graduated from college I had a collection of about 350 CDs and counting (which, yes, are now in boxes taking up space and collecting dust in my attic). Don't ask me where I got the money to get all those, some of them used but most of them $14-$18 at places like Sam Goody and Camelot Music and Music Wherehouse (all of which I'm sure don't exist anymore).

Then I went through a phase of collecting books, which for me is pretty silly because I so very rarely go back and read a book a second time. Yep, most of those are in boxes in the attic, too.

After I moved on from the subsistence-living job to one where I actually had some spending money, and with the full power of the internet (and eBay) unleashed, I got back into card collecting for a few years. At the time the industry was hitting a peak of releases and as the bubble burst, eBay was heaven for a casual collector like me, who really just wanted all of the Chad Johnson cards in existence.

Now I still have all of these collections, and even more.

I want to read all of the books. My Kindle is filling up with these free downloads that look good I may never get to because I have an ongoing list from the library of newer, better stuff (maybe, maybe not) and I don't have enough time to read them all. That's in addition to all the physical books I have and the many that come out every week I keep adding to an ever-growing To Be Read pile.

I want to try all of the beers. That's not meant to sound alcoholic, there are just so many different flavors our there. I find one I like and buy a couple extra. Being in Portland, every time I go to the grocery store there is something new and different from one of the local breweries. Then there are the special releases aficionados look forward to every year, like Deschutes' Abyss or Pelican's Mother of All Storms - you have to pick up a few of those. And if I happen to go to a bottle shop, like Belmont Station or John's Marketplace, it's almost impossible to leave without 3-4 bottles of stuff from all over the country. I usually only drink one a week...so, um, yes, there is quite a collection growing.

I want to eat at all of the restaurants. I want to sample all of the ice creams. And all of the bakeries. If you have followed this blog or me on Twitter or on tumblr for any length of time you know how I feel about the local food. Portland is so full of great options, with more opening all the time, that not only can we not keep up but we almost never get back to places we loved. Just about the only place we get back to with any kind of regularity is The Sugar Cube, which only shows you how freakin' awesome it is and how you must go there all the time.

It's kind of funny - before the decision to change our diet we'd spend our weekends hitting up various spots for meals, desserts, tidbits, drinks...and then we'd bring everything home and eat it over the next couple days. We still do this, but the problem now is we don't eat it nearly as quickly. The freezer is full. The cupboards are full. The fridge is full. We still haven't reconciled our shopping habits with our new eating habits; that's something we still need to work on.

It's a long-term process, that's for sure.

Pulling this all round full circle, at one point there was a certain stress associated with this obsessiveness that, while not clinically debilitating, was a bit of a drain on focus and brain power. I truly believe the secret - if there really is one, which there must be because I keep getting asked about one - to my personal success with weight loss has been coming to terms with moderation, and then embracing it. I'm okay with having just a little bit of something.

The result is I'm pickier about what I do eat, which is worth my time. I'd rather wait than eat something I won't truly enjoy. I'll go without beer if I don't like my options somewhere, even if I want one. I used to never quit on a book, ever, but in the past year I've decided at least three weren't worth the fifth or sixth chance to improve. I have a finite amount of time and plenty of options, so why force myself to read a crappy book?

I apologize if that simple word - moderation - isn't the secret many want to hear. When I tell people in person they say, "Oh." And change the subject, like they are disappointed. It's not magic, unfortunately; it's just a mind set and it takes work, it takes focus. And really, for me, it almost feels like I had to give myself permission to be moderate in my choices. For a culture that values so highly the drive for perfection, accepting less can sometimes make one feel like their are a failure, or that they are accepting a life of mediocrity. That's not what's happening at all. At the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, it's about striking a balance point.

Now, if I could just apply this idea of moderation to my writing: I don't have to write all of the words now, just an hour's worth of them. Or a half hour. Or ten minutes. If I could be okay with that, I might have had another book done now, rather than not started with just words and ideas bouncing around in my head.

It's a process!

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