You know how people are jaded about New Year's resolutions and they're almost always represented as promises to yourself you'll never actually keep?
I realize this really is the nature of New Year's resolutions most of the time.
But occasionally, people do achieve what they set out to do. Sometimes, that resolution made on Jan. 1st is reality by July 1st.
The question at that point is, now what?
I'm proud to say I'm living proof that a goal set during the holidays is actually attainable. And, I hope, sustainable.
As many know, I've lost more than 40 pounds since the beginning of December 2012. I've done it through Weight Watchers, a system I always say may not be for everyone (what system is for everyone?), but it's as darned close to universally successful as I've seen.
I started my weight loss journey on Dec. 1st, which I guess technically means it wasn't a "New Year's" resolution. But close enough for purposes of this discussion.
Since I hit my goal weight in late March, I've been tinkering with the number of points (read: calories) I should consume each day to maintain a healthy weight. I actually dropped as low as 13 pounds under my goal, but have since put some of the weight back on (intentionally) and now sit very comfortably in the 175- to 180-pound range.
As a bit of a tangent, I should note here that that still puts me, medically speaking, just into the "overweight" range in terms of body-mass index. As a not-quite-5-foot-10-inch male, I shouldn't be any more than 174 pounds, according to the actuarial charts. But even my doctor thinks the weight I should maintain is 185, so I think we can safely ignore the charts in some cases.
Anyway, now that I've settled pretty well at a weight I can maintain without too much in the way of strenuous effort, the question again is, now what?
How do you motivate yourself once you've hit the promised land and have moved on with the rest of your life?
Because let's face it: You can't obsess about your weight or whatever your personal goal may be indefinitely. You have too many other things going on that demand your time and attention.
So how do you maintain what you worked so hard to achieve?
In the case of the weight loss, and with Weight Watchers specifically, there comes a time when the "hey, you look great!" comments sort of fade away. Because the New You is really no longer the New You, but rather the "Actual You." People's expectations of your appearance adjust to accommodate that new body. And if they comment on your weight again, it's more likely it will be along the lines of, "Hey, have you put some of that weight back on?"
So living off of the praise and congratulations that come with noticeable weight loss isn't an option. Instead you have to learn to continually reward and motivate yourself.
Maintaining that healthy weight is still work, even if you're not focusing on it seven days a week. Hard work deserves recognition and praise. And since no one else is likely to do it anymore, you need to supply that recognition and praise yourself.
It's the same with any goal, really. Once you achieve it, and you work hard to maintain it, you still need to pat yourself on the back from time to time. Reward yourself in whatever way works for you, whether it's an extra (reasonably sized!) slice of cake or a new pair or pants or whatever floats your boat.
And don't forget to look continually at the big picture. Even if others aren't as impressed as they once were with what you've accomplished, you shouldn't feel bad about looking at yourself that way. You're awesome, so tell yourself that. What you achieved was significant, and you should treat it as significant.
If you quit smoking, don't forget how you used to feel (and smell). And take a moment to reflect on how you feel now. Quite a difference, isn't it? Celebrate that. Continually.
A lot of people who quit smoking eventually relapse. And even more people who lose weight put it back on (I've been one). Every day you maintain that healthier version of you is a victory. Don't forget that.
Also, keep something around that reminds you of what motivated you to change in the first place. It could be a picture of your messy office before you became organized. Or an old shirt that's now five sizes too large you never want to fit into again. Or something that reminds you of the way you used to handle tough situations before you learned how to deal with stress.
Whatever it is, the idea is to remember how far you've come since you decided to change for the better. Because the farther we come, the less likely we are to allow ourselves to go back.
Or at least that's what I hope. I honestly don't want to see "XL" on the tag of any article of clothing I wear ever again...