Tracking Progress

In early December, I starting dieting and exercising regularly in an attempt to lose weight and get in shape. I figure I should take advantage of this free time to not only focus on my next career path but also on personal goals like my health and wellbeing.

I’ve taken on this challenge many times in the past. The two most recent successful attempts, I had something big to work for, that helped me stay on track — one was a trip to Hawaii and the other was my wedding.

Both times, I used an app to track my calories. I regularly weighed myself and took measurements to track progress. It was nice seeing hard numbers to gauge my success, but it was also frustrating when I had a week where I didn’t see the numbers go down or, even worse, when I saw the numbers go up.

And the problem was — once I hit the big milestones I was working toward, I no longer had anything to motivate me, so I would fall off the wagon and slowly gain the weight back.

This time around, I’m not working toward a specific event; this is a long-term — nay, lifetime goal. Once again, I’ve tracked my calories to make sure that I stay within my limit for the diet. And I’ve set various exercise goals. But I haven’t been weighing or measuring myself. Success has solely been measured by how consistent I’ve been with staying within my calorie limit and with how I feel.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was (embarrassingly) running low on clean clothes. It was a busy time, and I hadn’t done laundry in a while. Facing the possibility of donning heavily Febreezed jeans, I remembered that I had a box of old clothes from the last time I had lost a lot of weight but had since outgrown. I was convinced they’d still be one size too small but I thought I might as well give it a shot.

I pulled out the first pair of pants I could find, and braced myself for the disappointment of desperately trying to pull together that top button and hole, only to find that they don’t quite reach. But to my surprise, they buttoned and zipped with no problem. They actually fit!

Without really tracking and paying that much attention to progress, I had gotten back down to my wedding size. The feeling was nothing short of elation and a renewed, stronger sense of motivation.

It served as a good reminder that sometimes, if you’re just looking at the day-to-day, it’s hard to see that you’ve made much progress. Because day over day, or even week over week, that change can be small. But when you look at a larger period of time — say, a few months — suddenly you can see a huge jump in progress.

And it was made me reflect on how much progress I’ve made in other parts of my life, in these five months I’ve been on a sabbatical:

  • I figured out a career — web development — that I now know that I do NOT want to do.
  • I’ve launched a podcast!
  • I’ve worked on a couple of short films and written even more.
  • I learned to improvise and pivot and not be so obsessed with everything going perfectly.
  • I’ve grown leaps and bounds as an actor, taking on two original roles that really pushed me.
  • I kept up this blog! Two posts a week, without missing a single week. And I’ve written over 40 posts.

I don’t need to see big gains every day or even every week. A lot of accomplishment can be felt in just setting my mind to something and following through. And with that diligence, the progress will reveal itself — even if it takes a few months to do so.

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