"Eeeeeks. I need to put on a swimsuit! In the past few weeks' blitz of travel, work and general mayhem, I had almost forgotten that I'm going on vacation in a week. It's going to be hot (90 degrees), sunny, and in the general vicinity of salt water. That means a swim suit. Crap. What if I look horrendously bad? Reason for panic? Is there anything I could do about it with a week's notice? OK, let's get on the scale and survey the damage. Phew. I'm still at goal weight."
(BTW, no, I don't wear a Speedo, but you get the point)
OK, the above internal dialogue is interesting to me on two dimensions.
One: that I even care. What happened to me? Why do I care what I look like in a swim suit?
The answer is that I always cared. I just didn't like to talk or think about it. I suspect on some level most guys care what they look like on the beach. It's just not cool to talk about it. [I, seemingly, have given up on trying to keep up the appearances of being cool, so I do talk about it now.] It's a little bit of a vulnerable feeling to know that you can grab handfuls of adipose while barreling toward the ocean. I used to spend a lot of time trying to push my diaphragm through my back to disguise that which cannot be hidden.
I used to think that an extraordinarily nice perk of getting to goal weight would be not having to sweat this as much. But did it?
This leads to Two: fear of failure spotlighted by a beach vacation can be a powerfully motivating force.
In fact, I knew that I had a beach trip coming up for Spring break. I thought about it a lot during the first few months of the year. It was always in the back of my mind when I would start each work week on Monday. I thought about it when I was traveling last week and was being tempted by hotel breakfast buffets of carb-ridden pastry delights. I thought about it when I was debating whether to subject myself to another 4:45 AM wake-up call for my 95th consecutive workout.
I actually use these milestones on the calendar to help keep me focused during the year. It's easier for me to think about goals if there is something 2-3 months out that offers the promise of a reward (or avoidance of the opposite: failure). After this vacation, I will use the threat of warm weather, shorts, t-shirts, lighter clothes, etc. to keep me honest. I will think about going to the pool this summer and not looking like the President of Weight Watchers who couldn't keep his lifestyle together.
For me, thinking about this kind of ridiculous vain stuff is a powerfully motivating way of staying on maintenance. Maintenance is just different than losing weight. When you are losing weight, you are in the heat of pitched battle, thinking about the weigh-in each week. Maintenance by contrast is a long, unending process that definitionally doesn't have any of the epic moments of the weight loss process (10%!!! Goal weight!!! Lifetime!!!). Therefore, I try to create my own little made-up epic moments. "I will look awesome on the beach!"
It's all a little sad and un-masculine, but it works for me.
I think the broader point is that setting manageable goals is always a good strategy. It's a good strategy when losing weight: don't worry about getting to goal, focus on losing the first 5%. It's also a good strategy for maintenance: don't worry about being at goal until the last day of my life. Think about standing on the beach in two months.
As a side note, I did myself no favors yesterday on the whole beach-preparedness project. We watched my beloved Blue Devils play West Virginia in the Tournament last night (and crush them I might add). We supported the cause by diving into pork BBQ, slaw, mac & cheese and cornbread -- true North Carolina style fanship provisions. And today is Easter Sunday, hardly a light eating day. All of this just means more focus for the upcoming week because on Saturday morning I get on a plane for my own little epic Tournament: the beach.