Everything begins before you actually get started. Part of this is practical, of course, like assembling tools or doing research. In the case of dietary change it would mean knowing what your goals are and having some kind of plan to meet them. For exercise you’ll need the right gear and some knowledge of your activity. For other things it might not be so straight forward.
Not that long ago when I was talking about my plans and hopes a friend asked me why I wasn’t yet doing the things I was talking about. Certainly part of me wanted to react defensively and there was a wee twinge of fear that I’m all talk and wasn’t ever going to get where I’m going, but I resisted those. The honest answer was actually quite straightforward and much more empowering.
When I talk about my journey of weight loss, it’s tempting to start the story in April 2013 when the actual weight loss began, as shown in my weight loss graph below. My weight loss is a very steep slope for a pretty long time before things got more complicated again, as you can see.
It is tempting when talking about my success to show only the loss between early 2013 and late 2014, but that would be a lie. The things that I’ve been wrestling with since that point in 2014 will be discussed later, but the part I want to draw your attention to now is the bit of the graph before April 2013.
The thing is: while I began eating LCHF then in practice, it didn’t really start there at all. The peak and trough in 2012 were the result of a too-brief stint on the Atkins diet, the most well known low carb diet of all, though I still wasn’t tracking my food intake and was only cutting the obvious carbs. It was also during 2012 that my dad started on keto and shared with me what he was learning about the science behind it. I was interested and I knew it was only a matter of time before I went low carb again. While my weight was rising to it’s highest level, most weeks I was telling myself that I would start the next week, giving myself the perfect excuse to eat even more of the things I knew I needed to stop eating. It didn’t stick, but I was moving toward this big change even though I had nothing to show for it yet. If anything, objectively things were looking even worse.
In her podcast Magic Lessons that came out just before the release of her book Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert said that for her the first act of starting a new writing project was to organise her spice drawer – something that seems totally unrelated to writing but is still part of the process of beginning her commitment to a new project. For me, maybe it even goes back to the end of 2011 when I bought the scale these measurements were taken with, even though it was another year and a half before I really made the lifestyle changes I was building up to.
So in that conversation not long ago when my friend asked me why I wasn’t yet doing the things I was planning to do, I picked up my phone, pulled up that graph and pointed to the part before April 2013. I may not have had any results to show yet, but I was already in progress – incubating, building my resolve, making my plans, and getting ready to take the plunge.
I didn’t just wake up one day and everything had changed. I had to get there in my own way, on my own time, and I was moving toward my success even when things seemed to be getting worse.
I think this is true for all of us with most things. Sometimes we won’t need to do much “beginning before we begin” but sometimes we will. Sometimes our “pre-beginning” will be straight forward, like making meal plans or buying fitness equipment or joining a gym (something I still haven’t done) and sometimes it will be hidden, preparing ourselves mentally and emotionally, doing research and deciding to commit to something. We won’t get where we want to go until we make the commitment and do the thing, whatever it is, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t moving toward it, even if it doesn’t always seem like it.
Sarah is a North Carolina native who eats LCHF, lifts heavy things, and rides her Brompton in Glasgow, Scotland. Wherever you find her, she'll probably be geeking out about some aspect of health and wellbeing.