For the last 19 months, I’ve been on a journey toward improved health and fitness. I’ve lost about 160 pounds with more to go, gained actual hard biceps and some ab muscles I can begin to feel at least a little bit. I can walk for several miles, ride a bike for 20-30 miles, walk up and down stairs with ease, and do all kinds of things I couldn’t do before. Using many measures, I’ve had a lot of success.
I also had a tough winter. Stress, grief, and anxiety in many forms took their toll, as did what felt like too many months of cold and snow. I gained back about fifteen pounds, maybe a little more. A couple of days ago, I read a blog over on SparkPeople from someone who had done the same thing. She talked about it as her “failure.” She made a vow not to fail again. I recoiled from this, and I began to wonder why.
I had to do a quick check. Was I in denial? Was my own travel back up the scale a failure? I hadn’t planned to think of it that way. My doctor even gave me permission to not think of it that way (yet another reason I love my doc!). I want to think of failure as a gateway to opportunity, to make it a positive thing. And sometimes I have a hard time finding that perspective. I knew, though, that I wanted to rush in and save this blogger from her sense of failure.
My friend the research chemist told me years ago that his job to was to fail in roughly 99% of the work he did. Each time he tried something that didn’t work, he ruled out a possibility and got that much closer to something that might work. Every day he got up and went to his lab to try stuff that probably wasn’t going to work. But there was a chance that a breakthrough might happen, and that’s what kept him going back.
I want to love failure. I want to be able to routinely find the perspective that says “Cool! Spectacular failure can open up spectacular possibility.”
The truth is that I can’t always get there.
It’s “orange barrel season” in Wisconsin. I’d never consider following a detour sign around a construction zone to be a failure. Even with the detour, I’ll end up going where I have to go. If this particular journey truly is going to last my whole life long, does it really matter if I end up going a little out of my way once in a while?
I am going to banish the word “failure” from my vocabulary when it comes to my health and fitness. I will not use it to describe choices I make that send me over my caloric ranges and under my fitness goals. I will not use it to describe periods like the many weeks over the winter when I ate and drank more calories, too often “empty” ones, than I knew were good for me and moved less than was good for me.
I didn’t fail. If this is truly a lifestyle change, then it’s for the rest of my life. It’s not temporary. It’s not “do this for six weeks then do whatever you want to for the rest of your life.” We all know how that turns out!
This week, I’ve been eating well and I have over 300 fitness minutes in. I made a new short-term goal, my first that involves a “what by when” target. I want to be back at my low weight by June 9. I think it’s an achievable goal.
So, my journey into the wilderness last winter? Not a failure. Just a detour.