I unofficially diagnosed myself with chronic procrastination a few years ago. I read in a self-help book that symptoms include substituting action with rationalization, completing less important tasks to avoid larger ones, and starting multiple projects that go unfinished indefinitely. “That’s me!” I said. I also identified myself as the perfectionist: a type of procrastinator who delays getting things done due to fear of failure or flawed work. “That’s definitely me!” I said again. Relieved that I could put a name to my disorder, I resolved to conquer what I once thought was merely habitual laziness. Finally, I would pursue the job of my dreams, build a savings account, buy a house, write a book, plant a tree, have a child — because, now, I found the antidote within a few hundred pages. Unfortunately, I never finished reading them.
Procrastination is the culprit behind my weight gain. For years, I’ve struggled with yo-yo dieting and on-again, off-again exercising. My previous strategies for losing weight include becoming vegetarian, joining a gym after every New Years, buying quick weight loss powders and potions, and calorie counting. These random, temporary fixes were disasters in disguise. Procrastinators need motivation, constant coaching, plenty of structure, and a recovery plan in order to win anything worthwhile. I do my best work when others expect it from me or when I have a list of milestones to complete or a set of examples to follow. So, when LifeTime Fitness approached me with a 90-day challenge this August, my inner procrastinator prodded, “now’s the time to make yourself proud.”
I accepted the challenge full force and set a goal of losing 30 pounds by November 1. This time I was going to make serious life changes. I began a TV fast and increased my gym visits to 4 times a week. I went to the Try-it Tuesday activities and learned from Jenny, the gym’s nutritionist, what to purchase at the grocery store. Following her suggestions, I cut out fatty starches and bad carbs from my meals and bought a rainbow of vegetables from the produce section. I took fish oil supplements and gulped 32 ounces of water in one setting. When I wasn’t in the gym, I thought about exercise and educated my family and friends on unsaturated fats, natural sugars, and lean protein. (Thankfully, they supported my efforts and appeared engaged even if they secretly rolled their eyes in annoyance.) I weighed myself weekly, participated in Team Weight loss with other 90-day participants, and reactivated my Wii Fit program for workouts at home. After I took a metabolic assessment to understand how I burn fat, I toted a heart rate strap around my chest religiously and monitored my zones. I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app to log my daily calories and exercise. I downward dogged in yoga class. I burned 600 calories dancing Zumba. I cycled until I went breathless. I swam in the pool. I sweated in the sauna. I lifted weights and cowbells. Procrastination aside, I became a fitness warrior all within the first 30 days.
Then I weighed myself around day 35 and discovered I only lost 2 pounds. After weeks of obsessing over calories and Omega 3s, not much change happened. From that point on, I weighed myself every other day and saw the scale tip back and forth. If I wavered from my meal plan for one day, the consequence was an extra 2-3 pounds. On top of this frustration, was the disappointment that came when I showed up solo to Try-it Tuesdays. Members of the challenge were dropping off like flies. Perhaps the people who started with me were not procrastinators and had what it took to continue on their own, I thought. My inner procrastinator piped up again, but this time she begged me to return to my reality-show watching, potato chip-eating, fast-food binging, mind-numbing behaviors. “You can give up now,” she said. “You did the best you could.”
This is when my inner procrastinator is at her best — when situations are not ideal for me or when I give in to temptation, she rises above the confusion and leads me to resignation. She felt the pressure of having to meet an overly ambitious goal and made the decision for me to give up. To her I had failed before I had finished; my inner dragon was really an inchworm.
If I didn’t know better, I might have listened to her again. But within me also lies a competitive nature that supersedes my defeatist spirit. I was determined to see the finish line whether or not met my goal. Sure, losing pounds would be sweet, but it wasn’t the point to the challenge. Dawn, the cyclist instructor, reminded me that I had started something monumental that shouldn’t have to end after 90 days. And Jenny told me that the 90 days challenge was about making an attitude adjustment, so if I had accomplished that much, then the weight loss would eventually follow. Physical progress was slow, but mentally, I had put my procrastinator at bay, which was a huge deal for me.
Today is weigh-in day. When I looked at the scale a week ago, my weight loss was 5 pounds. This week I haven’t exercised as much as I usually do, and I’ve made a few questionable choices for food. My inner procrastinator has been on a winning campaign to make me indulge in pumpkin-spiced treats and candy corn. She told me there was no point to weighing in and that I can start again next year. I am not giving up now. Scales are not scripture. I know the good that I’ve accomplished in three months will last me a lifetime.
At the start of the challenge, the trainers handed us a swag bag that included a purple wristband with the words “90 day challenge” inscribed in the plastic. I wore my band to workouts and on runs as reminder of my mission. I decided that from now on, I will wear it everyday. When my inner procrastinator tells me to give up on the house, the book, the tree, the child, the dream — I will look at the purple band on my hand and give it a gentle tug.