Every choice makes the next one easier or harder, depending on what we've chosen to do.
On weekend mornings, I find it difficult to force myself out of bed and even more difficult to switch on one of my exercise DVDs. There's something about days with irregular schedules that are conducive to laziness.
One such morning, after hitting the snooze on my alarm at least a dozen times (my daughter finally came into my room and begged me to stop), I stumbled downstairs for some coffee and flipped open my laptop.
In the back of my mind, I knew that starting my day by turning on my computer was a bad idea. I knew there were other things I should be doing besides drinking a cup of coffee and web surfing. But the truth is, I didn't want to do those things. I didn't feel like getting out of bed before noon, let alone grabbing my free weights for an exercise session or completing my devotions.
Life is full of choices. We can choose to get out of bed on time, or we can choose to run late for whatever we are supposed to be doing. We can choose to exercise, or we can choose to deal with the unpleasant consequences of not exercising. We can choose to start our day in the Word of God, being strengthened by Him, or we can starve ourselves spiritually. Every day, we make choices based on what's important to us. And every day, by the choices I make, I reveal what is truly important to me.
That lazy Saturday morning, a battle was raging in my mind. I had been waking up and working out for so long, the morning exercise routine had become a habit. But it still wasn't something I looked forward to each morning. Every morning, the workout became a little bit easier to embrace, but I usually had to talk myself into it by reminding myself of my goals.
That morning I knew what I should be doing first thing. I shut off the computer and had my devotional time. Then I gave myself a little pep talk to remember why I work out. And eventually, I made it to the living room for my 20-minute workout and took one more step toward my goal weight and a healthier lifestyle.
The Paradox of Choices
Cathy and I are old friends. A few months ago we ran into each other and, in the course of catching up, commiserated about how difficult it is to get back into healthy habits once you let them slide.
“Have you noticed, though,” I asked her, “that every day you work out, starting your day with a workout becomes a little bit easier?”
Cathy nodded and added, “Or that every day I wake up and decide to go for a cinnamon roll instead of Pilates, it becomes easier to do that the next morning, too?”
We both laughed because it's true. Every choice makes the next one easier or harder, depending on what we've decided to do.
Every time you and I make a healthier choice, the next time we need to make a choice between the healthy and the not-so-healthy, the right choice is a little bit easier. In contrast, every time we give in to our craving for chocolate, ice cream or favorite fast food vice, the easier it becomes to make the unhealthy choice the next time it comes around.
We become healthier or unhealthier one choice at a time.
As I continue my weight loss journey through various setbacks, such as needing more surgery for a shoulder injury, battling pneumonia last fall and coping with some illness and deaths in our family this spring, I recognize even more clearly that it's not just big choices that are important — like whether or not I work out for 20 minutes each morning — but smaller choices, too. Every day is filled with hundreds of little choices we make that can determine whether we are one step closer or one step further away from goals we've set for ourselves.
With weight loss a major goal of mine for the last several years, I've been more aware of how many of my little daily choices affect that goal. Weight loss when you are obese is a long-term commitment, and every right choice helps.
For example, every time I go to the grocery store, I make a series of choices, starting with where to park. Parking close to the door is convenient, but parking further away is great exercise. According to my pedometer, I can get in close to four miles of walking just at the grocery store by parking in the very back of the parking lot, walking diagonally to the furthest door, walking around the inside of the store once and walking down each aisle as I shop.
As I'm shopping, I have a choice every time I am deciding what to buy. I can buy my snacks in the produce section, choosing from apples, berries, carrots and other fruits and vegetables, or I can buy my snacks from the aisle with all of the significantly less healthy options in boxes and bags. I can choose baked foods over fried ones. I can choose the brand of salad dressing with lower sodium over the one I've always used.
One of the things that I've often found unfair, coming from a family of very thin people and being the only one in my family with weight issues, is the fact that some of us have to be more conscientious of our choices than others. There are plenty of thin people perusing the junk food aisle and buying sugary cereals, while I have to investigate which brand of non-fat dressing has fewer calories.
As I've set my own personal goals, particularly in the area of living a healthier lifestyle, I've had to stop looking at the choices others make. Instead I must look at my own lifestyle and make choices that move me toward my goals.
Good Habits Naturally
I was recently at the library with a friend when we realized we had each headed in separate directions to go upstairs. I automatically went to the doorway to the stairs; she headed for the elevator next to the staircase. We paused and looked at each other for a moment. She laughed and said, “You're probably right. We should take the stairs, huh?”
I had to chuckle at this because she is a fitness instructor. I doubt taking the elevator would have a negative effect on her health, because she keeps fit by teaching several exercise classes a week. For me, though, whenever time is not a factor, I choose to do everything the hard way, to get in some extra exercise.
The first time I chose the stairs over an elevator, though, the choice wasn't as easy or as natural. I was very overweight and walking up the stairs left me so winded I could hardly breathe. I went to the doctor for advice regarding weight loss, hoping she could give me an easier solution than working out more. When the doctor told me to try taking the stairs more often, I related to her how winded I felt.
After checking to make sure there was nothing seriously wrong, she told me that my windedness meant I really needed to take the stairs more often. She suggested practicing on my own stairs at home, and told me the more I used the stairs, the less winded I'd probably be.
And she was right. Now taking a few flights of stairs isn't a big deal at all.
Struggling that Saturday morning to find the motivation to get out of bed, start my day with the Lord and work out, I realized I needed to make a new choice. This one involved going to bed at a reasonable hour to be ready for the next day — rested, refreshed and ready to make more progress toward my goals — one choice at a time.
Copyright 2010 Kimberly Eddy. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.