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Posted on Mon. Jan. 07, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

ADVENTURES IN FOOD AND FITNESS

If you slip up on your health and fitness goals, don't give up

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Our daughter Cassie had just announced she was giving up chips for good.

“They are nothing but fat!” she declared — words that came back to haunt her the very next day, when she was overcome with desire for her cousin's nachos and wound up ordering some of her own at a ball game.

“But Cassie, I just read on your mom's blog this morning that you were giving up chips for good,” Uncle Brent teased.

“Well, I am,” she said. “But I might have some nachos every once in a while, as a special treat.”

This is the kind of rationalization that invites ridicule, especially if you're a grownup who's already broken your New Year's resolution. If you can't make a change stick for 24 hours, you have no willpower — and no hope of escaping the familiar patterns of failure that your family, friends and coworkers are all too quick to remind you of.

That's one way of looking at it. Here's another: Cassie's nachos don't represent failure as much as a point to be plotted on the “leading edge of change.” The one step forward before the inevitable two steps back. Because that's how we humans progress — in lurches, not leaps.

I thought about this a lot during my weight loss. Because I always went for a run before my weekly weigh-in, the number on the scale was inevitably a couple of pounds less than my “real” weight.

“My weigh-ins aren't really accurate,” I admitted to my sister during one of our runs that summer. “But they're inaccurate in the exact same way, week after week. And they're always less than the week before.”

Talking it over that day, we decided the number on the scale wasn't an illusion but a precursor — a sign of where I was headed if I kept up my hard work the rest of the week.

That may have been a rationalization, but the change itself was real. Everyone could see it happening as the pounds melted away. And the more I came to believe in it, the less I worried about mistakes — slip-ups like Cassie's nachos that in the past would've been enough to completely derail my diet.

Cassie made her “no more chips” pronouncement in the summer of 2011, shortly after she turned 12. She's broken her vow more than a few times since then. But focusing on those lapses obscures the bigger picture — that she's paying more attention to what and how much she eats. Enough so that she's shed 20 pounds of “baby fat” even as she's grown a couple of inches taller.

Looking back now, her nachos goof seems more like a turning point in her personal health history rather than just another amusing family anecdote.

It was about that time that she began measuring serving sizes and following up the occasional indulgence with some dancing or a stint on an exercise bike.

She hasn't given up chips — or nachos — completely. But she chooses not to eat them far more often than she caves in. If she were a baseball player, her batting average would be way over .750. Given that we make more than 200 food decisions every day, according to Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, that's huge.

Cassie's “midsummer resolution” gave her something to shoot for. It doesn't really matter that she missed on her first attempt. The important thing, in the long run, is that she didn't give up.

Tanya Isch Caylor, a News-Sentinel copy editor, blogs on diet and fitness at http://90in9.wordpress.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.


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