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Compartmentalizing Progress

I was debating whether to post this on my weight loss blog, or on this one. In the end, I thought I’d post it here because it involves more than just weight loss.

Not that long ago, I wasn’t doing very well with my personal progress. The primary reason for this was my weight. I was eating and eating, and it was an addiction. I tried over and over to stop, but nothing was helping. I ended up getting very stressed at the huge change, and the stress would only make me mess up again. Stress, in my opinion, is public enemy number one. It not only makes life miserable, but it causes us to step back onto easy, unhealthy habits to make us feel better. Rarely does stress make a good motivator.

Diet was not the only area of improvement that I needed to make. I was not very good at budgeting, I dressed overly casual, I didn’t exercise, I was having trouble with personal acts of worship (scripture study, prayer, etc.), I would take days off at work for the slightest reason. All of these things together were a huge burden, and I was really stressed about my life. So I came up with a plan to improve myself, without stressing out about it.

In May, I was able to start a diet again. However, I decided not to worry about portion control or any of my other problems. Instead I only focused on what I was eating. I could eat as much as I wanted, as long as the ingredients were in line with the diet. To be honest, I didn’t lose much weight this way, but I no longer gained any either. That was enough. I did start to feel healthier, and that is what made the next step easier.

After a few weeks of being on my diet, I felt better. So I decided to take the next step. That was being more reliable at work. Because I was in terrible physical condition before, I didn’t always feel good in the mornings, and I would often ask to take a day off as a result. I had excuses, but they were somewhat lame, and I could have done better. This was the next step for me. I started working the full 40 hour weeks without fail. In the time since then, I’ve only taken one sick day. This not only helped how I felt about my profession, but it also helped me out financially. I’ll get to that later.

Keep in mind, I was not worrying about anything that was not in the plan. Although I was on a diet, and I was going to work with more regularity, I still didn’t worry about my casual dress, or how much I was spending on food. Making all of those changes at once would have stressed me out, and it would have been too dramatic a change to feel natural.

Step 3 was related to my personal acts of worship. I’m a religious guy, and I find study of the scriptures and prayer to be very important. At the very least it helps me think about my day and encourages me to improve my life. I thought about starting this earlier, but I’ve found that diet and laziness interfere with personal acts of worship more than anything else (at least in my life), which is why I worked to establish my diet and work schedule before I started working on scriptures and prayer. Thankfully, I was able to do it. I even started reading my spanish scriptures (from my mission) out loud to keep up my Spanish. Two birds with one stone.

Step 4 was my dress. I have recently started a much better position at work. It involves corporate training and administering the company’s knowledge base and official blog. This was a huge leap for me, and I thought I should look more professional. So I went to the local thrift store and bought as many button-up shirts as would fit me. I also got a few pants (I was previously wearing shorts a lot). This step was possibly the most significant in my mind, because dressing professionally makes you feel more professional. And I started acting like it. In fact, this step has made it easier to continue improving my life, because I felt more professional. It’s a great feeling.

Step 5 was a combination of diet and budget. I hadn’t worried about what I was spending on food. It was a significant amount, and I was basically living paycheck to paycheck. I decided that needed to change. So I started calorie counting, and I figured out a meal plan that was healthy and cheap. I found something that worked for me, and I began using it for about a week. Then, once my next paycheck came in, I started a basic budget. I was able to know exactly how much I would spend on food, which made the rest of the budget easier. I managed to add an additional $100/paycheck to my savings fund, but also have several hundred dollars left over. It was the best feeling. I celebrated by buying a suit to look even more professional during church (note: I had a suit, but I couldn’t wear it after I gained weight). I should also mention that the restricted diet has helped me lose weight again. I plateaued for the majority of the last six months, but in the last two weeks I’ve lost 8 pounds.

And that’s about where I am now. I’ve made a significant volume of improvements in the last six months, and I couldn’t be happier. The trick was compartmentalization. As long as I didn’t worry about everything else, I could improve one thing. Once I had worked on that item for several weeks, and made a habit of it, I was able to move onto something else. So far I’ve only made improvements since May, and there has been little, if any, backtracking.

I’m still not done. I have several other steps to do, among them exercise, organization, time budgeting, etc. but I’m confident that those will come as I need them. So for those of you struggling with what feels like too much to improve on, try not worrying about it. Try taking one item and working on that until you can add a second. It removes stress, and has been a great method of improvement for me.


Categories: Personal


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