Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

How I’m feeling

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I got an interesting note from a regular reader:

I’ve followed your weight-loss and fitness progress with both pride and envy. Interestingly, unless I’ve missed it, you haven’t commented much on how you actually feel after all this. That’s a helluva weight to lose…you must be feeling fantastic. How has it changed your daily life? I think that would be an interesting angle to talk about (if you’re comfortable with it of course).

I was thinking about this just the other day, and wrote in a letter that I seem (based on my observations rather than my feelings) to have quite a bit more energy, given the things I’m now doing: blogging, writing a book, writing 1-2 letters by hand every morning, taking Spanish, cooking quite a bit, doing 30 minutes on the Nordic Track 5 days a week (and, yes, I did my 30 minutes this morning), doing an hour of Pilates three times a week, and so on.

I tend to rely on observations of activity and behavior rather than internal feelings, but internal feelings can be quite misleading: observing what one actually does is a good check.

I certainly could not have done that before this effort: 5 minutes on the Nordic was a trial, I couldn’t have done the Pilates at all, I think, and I certainly wasn’t doing the other stuff listed except for the blogging.

But the odd thing was that we so readily adapt to the current situation that we don’t see anything out of the ordinary. I did not feel that I lacked energy before. That wasn’t the problem (as I saw it): the problem was simply that I was obese and out of shape. But so far as daily activity was concerned, I saw no problems. I had insensibly adjusted my range of activities to my comfort level, so everything felt fine and “normal.” I may have gotten out of breath walking up the hill at college, and had to stop a couple of times, but that was just how things were. So, in fact, I didn’t go to the college. Without thinking about it, it just faded out of my picture of things I could do.

And now: I feel good, everything is fine and “normal”, and it’s hard to feel the difference—probably because over the 9 months it’s taken to get here, I’ve had time to adjust and accept. Plus, of course, I still have 10 lbs to go, so I’m still working on it.

I’ve observed that students, who are learning a lot and rapidly increasing their range of knowledge, go around feeling ignorant and unready because the teaching process keeps them at the mine face, as it were, working hard to gain knowledge that they still lack. Surrounded by so much they still don’t know, they lack a sense of their progress, and I think that’s my situation.

A story on that last: when I went to graduate school, I went into mathematics. I was taking a course in abstract algebra taught by John Kemeny, a very very smart man indeed, using van der Waerden‘s Modern Algebra as the text. I had never been exposed to modern math, so this was both exciting and difficult—and this was before I had learned how to work or how to study (which is a form of work). But I plugged away, constantly feeling that I knew nothing, until I tried to explain something I had just learned to a friend (who was not studying math)—a homeomorphism of a group, as I recalled, and how that generalizes to other structures, and as I started to provide just the background, not the new thing I understood, I saw her eyes glaze over. I realized then that perhaps I had actually learned some stuff while feeling constantly ignorant and struggling.

Perhaps many repetitions of the sequence of tackling something, feeling ignorant about it but continuing to work on it, and then looking around after some weeks and realize that I really do now know quite a bit about it. Indeed, that’s how I’m approaching Spanish now: I feel extremely ignorant and awkward, but I now have faith that if I continue to work and learn, in a few months I’ll surprise myself by how much I know.

Getting fit is a lot like that: Because you’re challenging yourself, you feel constantly on the verge of failure and your feelings don’t really reflect your accomplishments. That’s where behavioral observations and objective measures help.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2011 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

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