Sometimes making progress, sometimes falling back, I keep searching for the magic solution to the challenge of getting and staying in shape. But instead of a magic bullet, two observations continue to emerge.
First, there are many ways to reach our goals. Exercising only in the morning or only walking doesn't meet everybody's needs. Eating or avoiding any given food doesn't always work. Successful regimens are unique and specific to each person.
Second, people who achieve their goals don't succeed the first time. Like babies who fall down while they are learning to walk, repeated efforts—and failures—are part of the process.
Evidently, we are stuck with learning what works—and what doesn't—for our unique bodies through trial and error.
Self-awareness, though, is only the first step. If I discover that when I skip breakfast, I get too hungry and overeat later in the day, I won't automatically start eating breakfast. One morning I'm "good" and eat breakfast, but the next morning I say "to heck with it" and overeat that night. This is OK. Weight control and fitness are processes.
Converting self-awareness into a positive habit may be as difficult as acquiring the self-knowledge in the first place, and may be even harder. One technique I've found helpful is to make statements to myself about what kind of person I am, consistent with the behavior I want to achieve.
When the New Year, with its impulse for resolutions, comes around, I no longer make any. I don't make any because I don't want to wait to become the person I want to be.
Instead, I just say to myself: "I'm the kind of person who likes to eat thin, who doesn't like second helpings," or, "I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to finish a meal feeling full." I also say to myself, "I'm the kind of person who loves to exercise."
The thinking of the 5-foot 1-inch woman who ate her way to 183 pounds cannot be the thinking of the same person who weighs 125 pounds.
Of all of the approaches I've experimented with, telling myself what kind of person I am is the most fun, the easiest to master, and the most practical. If you try it, remember that you're aiming for progress, not perfection. I hope you'll let me know your results. Best wishes for a healthy, fit, and happy new year!