In 3 days it will be 6 months since I started my healthy living journey.  Along the way I have learned a great deal: about my limitations and abilities, about clean eating, about running, about strength training, about coffee and almond milk and quinoa…

All of it has shown me that I have a lot more to learn.  But…I am off to a good start.  Even if I have to remind myself periodically that I’m not on a “diet” and that all these changes I’m making are meant to be permanent.

It’s something I don’t think I’ve ever thought about before in my previous weight loss attempts. Sure, I’ve kept food journals and counted calories and opted for the low-fat option on the restaurant menu. But always with an eye toward doing what was necessary to get to the intended goal. It was as if I was subconsciously saying to myself “Yeah, that bacon cheeseburger looks and smells good now, but it will taste really good 25 pounds from now! Order the grilled salmon.”  It was as if I was working hard and depriving myself to get to a point, and then once I got there all bets would be off. No wonder I felt like I was constantly trying to lose weight!

Now with everything I have learned and am still learning, my choices involve a more complex range of analysis: How many calories will I have to burn to balance out this cookie?  Will I be able to say no to this bottle of sweet tea once I reach my goal weight?  Does my goal weight even reflect my fitness goals? If I skip this core exercise today, how much harder will running 3 miles be tomorrow?

And always, the overarching question: Will I be able to sustain this long-term?

That is the nagging question after every success, every good decision, every plan made.  Because if it’s not something I can see myself doing a year from now, what is the point of doing it now? Seriously, what? So I can get to my goal weight that much faster, only to ascend right back up the scale when I stop whatever good thing got me there in the first place?

Now, that sounds a lot like “It’s not worth it to work hard, so why bother?”–but it’s not. You see, I’m trying to think long-term. That means if I can see myself O’Ding on milk chocolate the first time I get my hands on some after several months off, I decide I will just limit myself to a few ounces a week instead of swearing it off completely.  If I can’t see myself working out for an hour 6 days a week just to maintain a physique I achieved in two months, I don’t even start that. Sure with working out 5 days a week for 30 minutes a pop, it might take me five months to get there (wherever “there” is), but at least I have a better chance of staying there.

Frankly, it’s better this way. I don’t have days where I fall to pieces because I couldn’t resist a cupcake.  I realize that a cupcake here and there is not going to derail my goals as long as they are reasonable, sustainable goals. Ultimately, though, I hope to have learned enough and practiced enough, and succeeded enough, along the way that I prefer a nice fresh fruit smoothie over that old cupcake anyway.