Dieting and Writing: The Link
I will lose fifteen pounds by spring.
I will write one thousand words a day—or more—so that I beat my deadline by three months.
Dieting and writing are two things I think about way too much. Thinking about these two topics is probably a good thing. I need to be conscious of what I eat and how much and I need to be conscious of what I write and how much. I need to reflect daily on the quality of both what goes into my mouth and what goes onto the page. Meeting these goals should be easy with this kind of conscientiousness, right?
In terms of dieting, I seem to gain and lose the same seventeen pounds every single year. Last year was supposed to be different. I was supposed to lose the weight and through conscious eating, diet, and exercise, I was supposed to keep it off. The holidays approached. I wouldn’t fall into the same traps. But a trip to the emergency room where I received the somber news that my gall bladder needed to come out threw me off course. I would have to eat differently until I lost the organ that processed fats and bile so that meant, in my mind, all bets were off. What does one eat when they can’t eat fats? CARBS! And lots of them. Carbopalooza began in earnest and slowly but surely, the weight started to creep back. The good news is that I only allowed myself a three-pound gain over the month before I reined myself back in. The bad news? No more carbs for the foreseeable future and I need carbs. Without them, I turn into a very bleak, very sad person.
As for the writing part, I also set goals. A thousand words a day. Every day. No exceptions. Unless of course I see a cobweb up in the rafters of my office. Got to get the vacuum! Got to vacuum that up! And the cat litter…that needs to be changed. Oh, there’s laundry? I must do that, too. While I’m at it, let’s eat a bag of pretzels…wait! I can’t have carbs.
See where I’m going with this?
Dieting and writing are not all-or-nothing propositions. Sure, it would be great if I could get the last ten pounds off while keeping the first seventeen off (and writing a thousand words a day) but that’s a long-term goal. It won’t happen overnight, so the best course of action is to set a short-term goal for myself. “This week, I’ll write down what I eat and exercise three days. Next week, I’ll reassess.” Same with writing. If I wrote one thousand words per day, well, then it would only take me two and a half months to write a book which would give me lots of free time to vacuum up cobwebs. And as we all know, it takes a heck of a lot longer to write a book than that. It’s usually around a year because I owe my publisher one book a year. I’ve never beaten a deadline but I sure as heck have almost blown one or five.
So while last year was the year of Zen Maggie—a spectacular failure if the stressed looks on my children’s faces are any indication—this year is the year of Attainable Goal Maggie. The year in which we finally figure out how to eat the elephant (hint: one bite at a time) and never bite off more than we can chew or set goals that are unattainable and thus make us feel like constant failures.
Who’s with me? And who hid the pretzels?