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by Carole Carson, AARP, December 4, 2008
Lately, I've been preoccupied with love, specifically how we nurture and take care of ourselves—or how we don't.
On the positive side—thanks to exercise, I'm in my best physical condition since high school. Nonetheless, I'm concerned that I won't be able to keep up the good work. So, on a walk with some fitness-minded friends, we came up with five dysfunctional behaviors that we need to change so that we can stay in shape.
Be a perfectionist—wrong! One woman confessed that if she fell apart on Thursday, she had to wait until Monday to get back on track. Another reported that she didn’t keep a food diary because she couldn't do it perfectly.
Replace the perfectionist's creed—"If I can't do it exactly right, I won't do it"—with "Progress, not perfection." Imperfection is part of the human condition. We need to lighten up and laugh, especially at ourselves!
Go unconscious while eating—wrong! Dining out, I watched with fascination as a patron took the next bite of food before she finished chewing the last one. In between, she stabbed a forkful from her spouse's plate.
I'm not that bad, but I'm hardly flawless. If I watch television while eating, I want seconds because I haven't truly experienced eating the "firsts."
I'm working to stay honest about portions. I'm learning that, to enjoy eating, I need to take it slow.
Put others' needs first—wrong! Houseguests throw me off. Besides cooking special meals (which I also eat), I'm preoccupied with the mechanics of life—getting a load of laundry done, preparing for the next meal—instead of exercising.
Our new strategy is to remember advice from flight attendants. When oxygen is needed, first put on your own mask, then help others.
The last time I had houseguests, I served them breakfast after I finished my workout routine. No one minded.
Try to do too much—wrong! Of the many sabotage practices, this is my worst. Realizing that time on Earth is finite, I feel an urgency to make hay while the sun shines. How ironic if this pressure actually triggers my premature demise!
Our strategy is to set priorities and not let "priority creep" turn each task into a "must do," or worse, a "must do perfectly." Remember to breathe deeply and stop. See? The world didn't come to an end!
Make excuses and procrastinate—wrong! To expedite communication, assign numbers to excuses. "I didn't have time to exercise today" is number one. "I overate because the food looked too good" is number two. The third is "I'll start tomorrow." Besides sharing our lists, we can add them to our medical files, and later, our tombstones.
Our strategy: Toss out the excuses along with our oversized clothes. Begin now.
Maybe George Orwell was right. Like most people, I don't want to be good all the time. But if I can't be good all the time, maybe I could be a little better a little more of the time.
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