The Guinea Pig Fund is another guest post from The Hill member Christi Crumpecker, M.D. Christ talks about how her goals have changed from simple weight loss to something more meaningful.
When you are obese, your gym goals seem obvious. Well-meaning people say, “Good for you, trying to lose weight!”
For a long time I thought nothing of it. Of course my main goal was to lose weight. I never considered anything else. And there is no shortage of outside praise for making progress: “You look so much thinner!” You get to pick out new clothes. You look better in the mirror. So, that’s what I’ve been aiming for. It made sense.
I’ve been obese for a long time. Like many people, I’ve tried a lot of things that didn’t work—or worked for a while, but weren’t sustainable.
Severe calorie restriction. Eliminating “bad” foods. Extreme cardio to burn calories. I lost weight and gained it back. More recently, I’ve tried some sane, safe approaches to losing body fat while maintaining lean muscle. I’ve had great support from friends, family, doctors, and coaches. And it’s been working, mostly. When I get up in the morning, I am motivated to plan my meals and snacks and to find time to exercise. But like many people, my enthusiasm and willpower wane. Evenings, after a long day of work and CrossFit, it’s hard for me to be motivated to eat well with the goal of wearing smaller pants.
The last couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in Nutrition Now at CrossFit Memorial Hill. It’s been a very helpful, supportive group, based on sound, responsible nutrition with reasonable metrics. I gave it my all. I chose to motivate myself with the long-term goal of improving my body composition, measured in small steps along the way. I focused on losing inches and pounds. I changed up my diet and actually gained a little weight. I was terrified. I tried to buckle down and work harder, to change my body to fit my ideal image. Really, I started slipping back into the mentality of just trying to “lose weight.”
But I kept having this single, intrusive thought.
In December, I tried to flip over the largest tire at The Hill.
I made it about halfway (well, maybe closer to a third of the way), but couldn’t quite get it done. I’ve thought about it a lot since then. Flipping over that tire has been a secret goal, one that I only mentioned to a single person who scoffed, “You’re a 41-year-old doctor! Why would you want to get dirty and risk hurting yourself? If you want a tire flipped over, hire someone else to do it.” Yes, that’s right, I thought. It’s a silly goal to have. And I wasn’t really sure I was allowed to have a goal like that, anyway. I’m obese, after all. I should be working on losing weight. But I haven’t been able to put that tire out of my mind. In sneaky ways, it has found its way into how I approach workouts and think about eating: I feel like I am preparing myself to someday flip that tire, and most nights that’s enough to keep me out of the peanut butter jar.
I think about my patients, the ones I am trying to help stop smoking.
They each need to find a goal that motivates them. Typically, the looming threat of emphysema and lugging around an oxygen tank isn’t what does it. It’s something closer and more tangible. One patient wants to buy his daughter a guinea pig for her birthday. We figured out how much it would cost with all the accessories. He’s saving for it by purchasing fewer cigarettes. When he comes in for his appointments, we talk about the growing Guinea Pig Fund, not the shrinking risk of lung cancer. He found a meaningful, positive goal and is totally committed to it. And in every way, it’s working.
It finally occurred to me: Am I any different?
I want to live a long and healthy life and set a good example for my patients. And I appreciate that this means working to improve my body composition. But having that as a primary goal is, for me, right now, uninspiring at best and anxiety-provoking at worst. Yes, I sure hope that a “better body” is a side effect of the work I do, but when it comes to the hard choices, a tangible, performance-based goal seems to be the motivation I need. I’m not used to this. I’ve never been an athletic person and never believed I had the ability to be. I felt like I needed someone’s permission to set a goal other than weight loss. But I really, really want to flip that tire. I decided to just start believing in myself. That I am strong and I am capable, at any size. That I’m going to flip that tire. This is a big mentality shift for me. It means letting go of the socially accepted goal of “bettering myself” by losing weight and admitting to myself and others that my current goals are different. I don’t want to take up less space in the universe. I want more.
I haven’t achieved my goal yet. I expect it to take a long time. I am making progress in strength and work capacity and as a by-product my body composition is changing. My weight has decreased, but I’ve gone up a shirt size because my shoulders have actually gotten bigger. And I’m just fine with that. My Guinea Pig Fund is growing. I’m gonna flip that tire this year.
COACH’S NOTE: Shortly after writing this, Christi flipped that tire.