Wednesday, November 11, 2015

on approaching life as your experiment

For a significant portion of my life, I was overweight.
Me in high school, age 16. Eek!

I remember feeling elated when I fit into a size 8. EIGHT.

For all the time that I, at about 5'4, hovered around 150-160 lbs, I didn't love my weight and I didn't love how I looked. But being that weight was comfortable and familiar to me. Getting in shape--eating differently, exercising--ah! It was so intimidating. Overwhelming. Easier to just keep on keeping on the way I was.

One day, though, I had a thought.

I thought: this is the youngest I will ever be. This is the prime of my life. And wouldn't it be a shame to live and die and never know what it feels like to be fit? To be thin and in shape and actually healthy?

And so, that day, I committed: I was going to experiment with being healthy.

No pressure, I told myself. I'll only commit to being healthy for a few months. I'll get down to my body's ideal weight and then see what happens. If I love it, I can keep on being healthy. If I don't, well, no one ever complains about how hard it is to get fat! I can always come back to this weight, no problem. I already have all the clothes in this size that I'd need.
Me in college, age 18. Size 10.

By framing my weight loss as a temporary experiment, I took the pressure off myself. When things got hard, I told myself: I can always go back to being unhealthy tomorrow. Today is just one day. This experiment is just a few months. This is not a big deal.

And the weight came off. I didn't take good records at the time but as I recall I went from about 160+ lbs down to 126 lbs in maybe a few months. I was shocked and thrilled when I got down to smaller than a size 2. And I did it all by altering my perspective: giving myself permission to make my life changes temporary, and additionally by realizing that I was only at 160 lbs because I was living the lifestyle of someone who weighs 160 lbs. Once I realized this and committed to temporarily assume the lifestyle of someone who weighs 120 lbs, things just changed.

I share this story because I feel there is so much power in giving yourself permission to try things out. I feel that so many people shy away from things that would really bless their lives, because they're afraid that once they make a choice to try something out, it has to be FOREVER.

Well, not true!

You can agree to try losing weight for six months and get into the best shape of your life. You can always choose to be fat again later.

Me in college, during
one experimental health
stint. Size 8-10.
You can try sacrificing to save a relationship that matters to you. You can sacrifice today and not have to sacrifice tomorrow.

You can experiment with how you look: cut your hair. It'll grow back. Try a new shade of lipstick. You never need to wear it again. Talk to a stranger in the grocery store. They don't know who you are and you may never meet again anyway.

You can try reading the Book of Mormon and meeting with the missionaries. Reading a book doesn't have to mean a permanent life change.

And that's just it: none of our choices mandate a permanent life change. None of them do. Some of them theoretically do--when we make covenants we really should plan on keeping them forever. But let's face it: some people just don't keep their covenants.

People change every day. You change every day. I change every day. It is a folly to expect to be the same person next year as you are today.

But if you can count on the fact that you'll be a different person next year--what does that mean?

Me 13 months ago, prior to
pregnancy! Size < 2. A result of
a health stint.
It means that you can influence who that person next year will be. And you influence your future self by experimenting today.

"Experimentation" has a connotation that I don't mean to endorse. Please don't think I'm advocating for sexual experimentation in any way, or experimentation with drugs or alcohol or anything like that. I'm focused on the kind of experiments that could have a lasting positive effect on your life.

Experiment with a 40-day kundalini meditation.

Experiment with diet and exercise: experiment ingesting the typical daily caloric intake of someone the size you want to be.

Experiment with studying the scriptures every day.

Experiment with studying other people's scriptures too: In my normal life, I study the Book of Mormon and the Holy Bible every day, and then the Tao Te Ching regularly and I just picked up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita a week or two ago. A few years back I read the Koran and recently I started the Analects of Confucius, although I still need to finish. So many people seem terrified to read other people's religious texts but I don't understand why. What if there's a nugget in there that will bless your life? Why would you intentionally avoid that?

Today I invite you to take the pressure off yourself. Read a new book. Study something new. Try a new lifestyle when it comes to diet and exercise. Give yourself parameters (ex: this will only last 2 weeks! or This will only last 6 months!) and just give something a try. Experiment with something you've thought about that could make your life better.

Be open. Expand. If you don't try something new, you'll never know how it could have blessed your life. If it doesn't bless your life, at least you won't have to wonder if it would have.

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