That’s almost 30 years of living with a number hanging over my head. From Weight Watchers summer camp to the rice diet to Kathy Smith’s Fat Burning Plan to Weight Watchers to the Zone to Paleo – with aerobics videos and step aerobics and triathlons and boxing and Roller Derby and half marathons and CrossFit along the way.
My motivations have been many: Fear of being fat. Health concerns. Peer pressure to conquer the 200# deadlift. A personal sense of pride. Unadulterated vanity.
Those motivations shaped my behavior. I ate “right” so I would reach my Weight Watchers goal weight. I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. so I would someday see my name on the RX or PR board. I was driven by a sometimes debilitating fear that I would never be “better.”
Then a thought began to flicker in my subconscious. It started, I think, in Prague when I realized I liked exploring narrow, winding stairways. I was starting to loosen my grip on “destination” and reveling in the “getting there.” That idea tickled me again when I was upside down at the gym and during a (totally fun, stopwatch-and-music free) run around the lake last week. What if my goals have been backwards?
What if I’ve been looking at this thing from the wrong direction all along?
My underlying motivation for all of it – the weight loss, the physical challenges, the healthy eating – has always been that I wanted to be the best version of myself that I could possibly be. Happy, healthy, fit, strong, attractive. But that pure motivation got bastardized into numbers and external measures that divorced what I wanted from what I did.
So what if I try something different? For the first time in almost 30 years, what if I don’t set a physical goal – no weight loss, no leaning out, no target time on the clock or weight on the bar.
Instead, what if I just behave like the best version of myself? Then I will be her.
The best me eats clean and sleeps well and trains hard and smiles a lot. She’s free of worrying about what number might appear on a scale or a measuring tape. Instead of being intimidated or threatened by stronger, faster, leaner classmates at the gym, she delights in their capabilities. And she remembers to encourage the people around her to be their best versions.
Finally, the best version of me knows that she doesn’t have to eat clean or go to class or lift heavy or get solid sleep. There is no accounting ledger keeping track of exemplary behavior for a reward later. There is no intrinsic value in checking off tasks on a list to earn a metaphorical gold star.
The clean eating and training and lifting and sleeping are the reward. They are the thing.
So I’ve banished my “concrete” fitness goals. I know that “Be the best version of me” doesn’t follow the SMART goal format. I don’t care.
I’ve done it the conventional way. Now I’m doing it my way.
Because the best version of me refuses to be measured by some external yardstick.
I’ll just live as the best version of me – happily going to bed early, waking up early, eating dino-chow, training hard, lifting heavy things, remembering to take a fun run every week, spreading love, looking up, leading with my chin, making up new recipes. Not because I must.
Because I want to. Because that’s me. The best me.
What is the best version of you? Not the one you think other people want to see or the one the media thinks you should be – but the one you desire, deep down, to be? Can you live the best version of you, without judgment? Without punishment? Without reward? Can you just revel in the you-ness of you?
photo credit: B Tal