Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Planning Ahead for Success

When I was in high school a large part of my social life came from marching and concert bands.  Marching band was almost like a full time job with practices starting in August for competitions and football games that ran from September through November.  Every week my mom would take me to the grocery store to pick up my snacks and lunches.  On weeks when we were traveling to competitions I really loaded up my cooler with tons of food and drinks.  I knew that I was going to spend hours on the bus between stops and would have little choice in which fast food restaurants we stopped at for lunch and dinner.  In college I did the same thing when traveling to karate competitions and going on football road trips.  But that all changed when I got a full time job.

When I started my first real job out of college I was poor.  I was living in my friends basement because I couldn't afford rent and selling CDs to buy groceries and put gas in my car.  I became very good at going grocery shopping on a tight budget and packing great lunches for myself.  Whenever I had to go out to the field for work I would pack my lunch because I didn't have any money to buy lunch.  My company would have reimbursed me for any money that I spent on food while I was traveling but I didn't have room on a credit card to buy the lunches or the flexibility to wait a month to get paid back.

If important people were in town or there was a meeting, someone would buy lunch for the whole office.  I loved these days.  I never met a free meal that I didn't like.  My bland peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were no match for Chinese buffet, Chick Fil A, pizza, Mexican food and all the other delicious foods that I would get for free.  Over the years as my financial situation and position in the company improved I was able to indulge even more.  I could pick my favorite restaurants and eat whatever I wanted and my company would reimburse me.  I spent at least a couple days in the field or in meetings every week and enjoyed the rich meals and happy hours that came with it.

I managed to only gain 10 lbs during my 5 years at this job because I was still very physically active.  When I started my current job I continued the same eating habits that I had developed at my previous job.  The problem was now I had a significant pay increase and a corporate credit card.  The quality of my lunches increased dramatically because I didn't have the limits of my personal credit card limit.  I now had the freedom to schedule multiple dinners and lunches every week and not only indulge myself but take all those lower level people that were in the position that I used to be in with me.  People loved it when I came around because I always bought lunch.  I became that important person that would take people away from their boring lunches. 

When I wasn't at work I still went out to eat all the time because I had more expendable cash.  My new status meant I could afford to eat out several days a week.  When I first started this job I had a lot of catching up to do so I worked long hours and traveled a lot.  I wasn't able to work out as much as I had been before and there was no karate dojo, marching band or other organization to keep me in check.  Six months into the job I had gained 10 pounds. 

At that point I met the man who would become my husband and spent the next year in a long distance relationship.  During that year I spent even more time eating out while I was traveling to see him.  When I wasn't visiting him I worked long hours to make up for all the time I was spending traveling to see him.  I was not working out consistently and put on another 15 pounds.

When my husband moved in we got our house remodeled.  I worked from home and oversaw the contractors during this time.  I continued working from home after the contractors were finished.  In the past I worked out before/after work and relaxed once I got home.  Outside of an organized group, I have never been good at leaving the house again once I got home.  When I started working from home, I didn't have to leave the house so I didn't.  I would go days without starting my car.  I own a treadmill, a heavy bag and have access to an endless supply of workout DVDs but that doesn't mean I have the motivation to use them.   A year after my wedding I was at my highest weight of 212 pounds, 12 pounds heavier than my previous highest weight. 

When I became a zumba instructor I lost 14 pounds but my eating habits have made it difficult for me to keep losing weight.  Success on Weight Watchers and Nutri System show me that if I eat better I will lose weight but sticking to those plans is difficult.  My joints are screaming for me to lose weight.  I use the excuse that I travel for work and don't have any choice in what I eat but I know that isn't true.  I can just as easily drive to the grocery store and use my corporate credit card to fill a cooler with healthier options.

Yesterday I had McDonald's for breakfast KFC for lunch and TGIFridays for dinner.  I was driving around all day so the only meals that were available to me were fast food restaurants that were near my work sites.  Once I checked into the hotel I was able to go to a nicer restaurant for dinner.  I only ate half of my pasta dinner and drank water so I had the calories left to enjoy dessert but I felt bad about having a third meal out for the day.  Too my credit, in the past I would have had several drinks and an appetizer on top of my dinner and dessert.  When properly motivated, I do have the willpower to make good decisions.  But sometimes when there are other people around me indulging I follow the peer pressure and eat crap.  Or if I've had a really long day I feel like I have earned the right to indulge. 

I didn't work out yesterday because I was so tired from driving but also because I had to prepare for today's meetings.  If I would have prepared ahead of time I would have had time to workout and would probably feel a lot better this morning.  Working from home has often become just being at home and not really working.  Even though I enjoy the freedom of working from home I don't really have the discipline to get enough done to be productive.  And when I leave my house I usually fit in a workout at the gym or a run at the park. 

So maybe I need to pretend like I'm in high school again and pack a cooler filled with enough food and snacks for 8 hours.  I need to go back to going to the office for at least half a day and scheduling my workouts around work.  I need to set boundaries when I'm at home so I don't find myself sitting on the couch for 6 hours.  And most of all I need to remind myself that good food doesn't mean comfort food and that having an expense account means that I can be more selective about my meals and pick healthier, pricier options. 

So many of my peers are overweight and unhealthy.  It seems to be the mark of success in my field.  But there are a number of them that are at the gym before and after meetings and not eating the fried platter for dinner.  I know that motivated person is inside me somewhere, I just need to find her. 


  1. You really illustrated how hard it can be to eat properly, but I wouldn't put the whole responsibility on yourself. Healthy food needs to be more accessible.

    I think you are already ARE motivated. You have identified a problem and a solution and you have evidence that it will work. Those are big steps. Give yourself some credit!

  2. Thanks Ashley. You're absolutely right about healthy food not being accessible. During my 7 hours in the car there was an endless string of fast food restaurants right off the highway but very few healthy options at any of them.