Saturday, June 29, 2013

We define our own success

Today I biked 12.5 miles. Flat miles. In an hour.

Fist bump!

Yeah, before my accident I was averaging more like 14-15 mph, not 12.5 mph. And I could do hills. And 80 miles minimum. But, guess what? I don't care! Because 12.5 miles in an hour is not only the farthest I've biked since then, it's the fastest.

So that's my new standard. I feel good. And successful.

What is a success?

I often think about what it means to be a success because I am often in groups where people are constantly comparing themselves to each other. Or judging whether or not they or other people are a success and by how much. Or both. At the same time.

But I have always felt like a success. When I was going to the New to the Sport workouts back in 2009 and being the slowest one on the bike and the run, I felt like a success because every week I got better. Plus I was there. Just being there felt like a success to me.

Being able to definite my own success is serving me well now that I'm coming back from an injury because I don't have to define success based on my past performances. I can continue to define it to be what makes sense to me right now. Which is good because I don't think I'm up to doing a 112 mile bike ride at an average of 14-15 mph just this second, if you know what I mean.

Weight Loss Success

Take that, Photoshop!
Interestingly, when it comes to my weight loss, I am a success by pretty much every measure that anyone has ever put out there. But it's probably the area I feel the most insecure about. I'm not the only one, either. I see it everywhere -- people being defensive about their weight and how much they have or haven't lost and have and haven't regained even when they seem like a total success to me.

Here are some typical standards of success with weight loss that you see people holding either themselves or others up to:

-Having a normal BMI
-Losing and keeping off at least 50% of your excess weight long-term
-Not having any regain at all ever no matter what
-Losing a lot of weight, keeping most of it off and being healthier than when you started
-Looking like a typical American when out in public and not so obese that people stare
-Rocking a bikini

When you look at those criteria, I think you can see how people can get defensive or down on themselves even though by most people's standards they've done fantastic. Because while many of my friends have lost a lot weight and kept most of it off -- often even more than 50% of excess weight -- and now fit right in when they go out in public because they look like they are a normal weight or just slightly overweight -- not all of them have a normal BMI -- even the ones who look amazing.

Sometimes this is because they've been obese for so long that it just isn't realistic for them to get down any lower. Their bodies aren't going to let them. But sometimes it's because that BMI number is dumb for their bodies. Because, apparently, Johnny Depp has an overweight BMI and that dude is hot!

Not to mention most of the people who lost a boatload of weight do not look like a super model in a bikini because of the scars or the loose skin or both unless they go out and spend the cost of compact car on plastic surgery and sometimes not even then because super models get Photoshopped.

What about regain?

Then we have the whole issue of regain. Because in the real world, people -- even people who don't really have weight problems -- don't generally stay at a stable weight their entire lives.

Stuff happens. You get put on a certain medicine and your weight goes up. Lose someone close to you, change jobs, stress -- it can all lead to some temporary weight gain. Sometimes it's not so temporary, which is why we hear over and over that body fat percentage tends to up with age.

But if you've ever been obese and then lost weight, apparently you aren't allowed to have these normal fluctuations. Oh no. If your weight goes up by even as little as ten pounds once in awhile, that's REGAIN.

And now you are a failure. Supposedly.

Well I reject your reality and substitute my own. (To quote Adam, from Mythbusters.)

My definition of weight success

I've decided that -- to me -- success is staying within a normal BMI -- or -- it's having a body fat percentage under 25%. Either one. (Because maybe someday I'll be as buff as Johnny Depp. Yaright.)

And that I rock a bikini just by wearing one.

This is not to say that I don't have my moments. I really struggled with posting that picture as an example. I know that two years ago, before I hit my head, I looked much better in that exact same outfit and I also know that I could be fitter if only I could work out like I want to and that makes me defensive sometimes.

I also find myself doing things like not wanting to post my weight if it's one or two pounds higher than whatever my current lowest is even if I know I'm retaining water and in reality in a few days I'll be back down or perhaps even lower. I know it's dumb and, for the most part, I don't really care what the scale says but some part of me still does.

But no part of me doesn't feel like a success. I may quibble over the scale and wince at pictures of myself, but I don't feel like a failure and I'm not going to let someone else's unrealistic notions of what it means to be a weight loss success change that.
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